As someone who runs or owns a small business, you understandably want to look for ways to keep costs down. Using various forms of robotic technology and automation can help you do that. Here are some things to consider.
Automate Inventory Control When Possible
Selling out of in-demand goods faster than expected can cause numerous issues throughout a business. The situation could disappoint customers, making them decide they’ll look elsewhere to meet their needs. Replenishing the items could take longer than you think, leading to other supply chain hassles.
That’s why it’s smart to look into robotic technology that uses artificial intelligence for better inventory control. For example, some solutions let you set triggers so goods are automatically reordered when inventory reaches a certain level.
Some artificial intelligence platforms can also make inventory-related predictions. That way, you’ll know sooner that something is about to sell out and can potentially react before it does.
Robots can also roam store aisles to monitor how much stock is left on certain shelves. Depending on the size and scope of your business, those may be outside your budget for now. However, they’re good to keep in mind for the future.
Look for Ways to Pursue Digitalization
If you stop to think about it for a second, you’ll more than likely realize that digital advancements have made your business and personal life much easier. Many digital banking platforms allow you to generate reports, and you can check your balance from anywhere.
Making a conscious effort to focus on digital operations will help you set the stage for using robotic technology. For example, there are many compelling reasons to switch to paperless processes.
Some email platforms automatically categorize incoming emails based on their subject lines and senders. Others can recognize key elements in the content and automatically route them to the appropriate person or department.
Similarly, a digital project management suite can automatically assign tasks to the correct parties and give you status updates as things are completed. You’ll be less reliant on manual tasks, which reduces the likelihood of errors.
Investigate Automating Your Customer Communications
No matter what kind of small business you have, it’s important to stay in a top-of-mind position with your customers. Ideally, they’ll think of you first to meet their needs. One way to increase the chances of that happening is to send periodic communications.
Using a platform to distribute bulk text messages is a popular option. Consider that approximately 93% of adults from advanced economies have mobile phones. Many people are already well-accustomed to receiving text messages, too.
Think about how you might automate text message distribution. You could:
- Tell people about limited-time sales
- Remind customers to fill out feedback surveys
- Give birthday wishes or mark other milestones
- Prompt website visitors to complete unfinished orders
People don’t always have time to open emails right after receiving them. However, text messages are often easier for them to immediately digest. Before setting up an automated system, consider the wording and format carefully. You’re working with limited space, so make every word count grab attention immediately.
See if Robots Fit Your Budget
Investing in robotics to cut operating costs may seem counterintuitive. After all, many robots have high upfront costs. Fortunately, they’re starting to become more accessible. Some companies charge per-usage rates to let business owners rent robots. One machine costs $8 an hour to run, less than hiring a person. The option to rent a bot lets people lower expenses and only pay for the time they use the robot, which often makes the prospect more affordable.
Sometimes, decision-makers realize the cost of purchasing a robot is worthwhile because it allows people at the business to spend their time more productively. Consider how an Auckland, New Zealand-based export business with 80 employees used a robot called Robert to assist with data-entry tasks.
Employees initially thought Robert was a human working remotely. It took some staff members several weeks to realize it was not a person. Workers said deploying this kind of robotic assistance was instrumental in enabling them to focus on more value-added tasks and keep the company competitive.
How Will You Deploy Robotic Technology?
As these examples show, there’s no universally best way to take advantage of robotic technology in a small business. However, a good starting point is to assess persistent weaknesses in your company. How might automation improve them and give your workers more time to focus on other duties?
Now is also an excellent time to decide how much of your budget you can devote to robotic technology. Don’t worry if you only have modest financial resources. Many business owners start small when using robots and automation, then scale up once they see those upgrades pay off.
The most important thing is to stay open to new opportunities and know that it may take some time before you see the full impacts of any tech upgrades. Remaining focused on what you want to achieve will help you stay motivated.