People are good at some things, and machines are better at others. It's important to distinguish between them when considering an automation project.

There is a strong tendency in some organizations to over-automate and assign most tasks to machines. However, insufficient automation is equally ineffective. According to Quarterman Lee, president of Strategos Inc., a Kansas City, MO-based consulting firm, much depends on the state of the technology and the relative economics of automation and labor. He says it’s important to distinguish between what people are good at and what machines are good at.

What people are good at:

  • Nubulous information.
  • Subtle decisions.
  • Vague process definitions.
  • Interactions with other people.
  • High variety.
  • Short runs.
  • Varied cycle times.
  • Quick changeover.
  • Varied inputs.
  • Multiple work locations.

What machines are good at:

  • Simple, quantitative and accurate information.
  • Simple, straightforward decisions.
  • Sharply defined processes.
  • No customer interfaces.
  • Repetition.
  • Short cycle times.
  • Long runs.
  • High volume.
  • High precision.
  • Heavy loads and large forces.