Different Day, Same old Shit! Why am I doing it this way?

My purpose in writing these stories is to get people to realize that they need to find ways to automate things in their lives.

Throughout my career, which is just over 20 years, I am amazed at how many people continue to do things that could have been automated long before.

For instance, I was running an office in South Carolin.  For several months,  Paul one of my managers was doing this task every day which took him almost two hours.  He was tasked with creating a report for a customer. He would gather data from a couple of different places on the system compile that data and then send it over to the customer.   He had been doing this for several months and wasn’t complaining.

I asked him one day to show me the process, in case he was sick or heaven forbid died.

I sat with him for over two hours while he explained the process.  After he had been finished showing me the process, I realized immediately the whole thing could be automated.  The next day I created a macro using Microsoft Excel’s crappy VBA ( Visual Basic for Applications).  It took a couple of days to fine tune the process. The process went from two hours to 30 seconds.  But now, the automation now created cool color graphs automatically too.   The customer was happy, and it freed up two hours of Pauls time every day.

I was consulting for a company recently I had been tasked with creating a rest API to accept order electronically.   I discovered during that process several steps the could be automated, making the customer an extra $120,000 profit a year and more than doubling the capacity to take orders.   However, that is a story for another day.

While I was building and managing that process, I was asking people from the company what they did and what was their biggest headache.  The support manager was dealing with a product recall.  There was some electronic component of a product they were selling would catch on fire, it only happened once.  However, 15,000 of these components were being recalled.   The difficulty for the manager occurred when he received the part and figure out if it was part of the batch that was faulty, which distributor bought and sold the product to the company that installed the product.  The support manager had teamed up with one of his supervisors to help do the research.  All of the information was on three spreadsheets in one Excel workbook.  They had a box of about 1200 returned parts that they needed to check. I asked how many they had checked.  He said they had been work on it for a couple of weeks and they had checked about 200. I asked how much time they were spending they said a couple of hours a day.   They were soldiering forward without really any thought of “how can we make this process better.”

I told them I could help make the process faster.  I spent a couple of hours that day creating a macro with some specifications from the tech support guys.  I took it back to them the next day we made some modifications.  We took a couple of the components out of the box and started to key in the serial numbers on the items.  This is when I realized there was a barcode on the component.  I found a test scanner in a development lab to test to see if the barcode was indeed the serial number.  Sure enough it was.  After a couple of test scans and a bit more tweaking that day I finished the macro and they started scanning the components.   I saw them a bit later that day.  They had scanned the remaining 1000 in less than an hour.  Figuring out the hours and their salaries I had just saved the company $70,000.

There were about 90 employees in the company at that point.  I am sure there are similar opportunities to save that kind of money in any company that size.

There are tons of ways I have used other tools to automate away little distractions in my life.  I will leave those for another day.   Possibly next week 🙂

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