Automating Workflow in Manufacturing

An automated workflow management solution can add great value to an organization and ease many of the problems they are facing with a manual process.

Mnet 145489 Dean Wiech Lead

Many industries still use manual processes, even antiquated paper processes, which could be costing them more time, resources and money than they realize. In the manufacturing industry especially, manual processes can cause many issues since there is often frequent employee movement, access rights changes and resource requests. This is because of high turnover of employees, as well as hiring of temps and contractors for specific jobs or projects. This means that these employees need to easily request access or resources for the jobs they are working on and only for the time required.

Also see: Harvesting the Value of Cloud

Although organizations might believe they are able to manually take care of requests and that their process is working, there are several downfalls that they might not realize are causing issues. The following are some of the issues that organizations face with workflow:

Inefficient Process

Think of the process an employee needs to go through to request access or other changes to their network account. They need to email their manager to ask for permission for a change, which then often needs to be passed along to yet another manager to validate the request and finally sent to IT to implement the account changes.

In the meantime, the employee often cannot complete their work and needs to wait on the modification to be made to access the resource or application they require. This can especially be a nightmare if the employee is assigned to a time-sensitive project. This is a waste of time and energy for the employee and often delays them in the starting or finishing their project. Additionally, the employee might need to remind their manager and bother them to check on the status of the change as these requests often are lost or not carried out, so the employee needs to frequently check up on the status.

Errors In Access Can Lead To Security Issues

One of the biggest issues with the requesting of access rights is that it can often lead to security problems. It is not ensured that the correct people gave permission and users can accidently be given access to systems and applications that they shouldn’t have. This can lead to the network being left unsecure and scrupulous employees using their access rights for their benefits.

Access can also be an issue when employees are leaving the organization. Often the disabling of accounts is overlooked and the employees are left with access even when they are no longer with the organization, as well as the physical resources such as laptops that they were given.

Audit Issues

Another issue that organizations face is no clear idea of who has access to what. With access rights being given out via a manual process and frequently no record of who gave access to what systems and applications, the organization has comprehensive overview of the rights granted over time. This can cause a headache when it comes to audit time, as system admins have a difficult time figuring out access rights.

What Is Workflow Management?

A workflow management solution can automate the process and help with the many issue mentioned. Workflow management is a controlled, automated process with a defined sequence of tasks that can replace an otherwise manual process performed by people. This allows for a streamlined process for employee requests.

Users can simply go to a website and request what they need, and the request is efficiently and securely carried out. Using a web portal, employees can request access to applications, name changes, mailboxes and distribution lists, as well as anything else that is needed. A workflow is set up so that when a user requests a change, the request then goes through a predefined sequence of people who need to approve it before the change is implemented. The organization can set up the workflow process however they want, so that depending on the user and what they request, the process goes through a certain order. There is also no need for the employee to bother their manager to check on the request. They can easily access the web portal and see exactly where the request is and what steps still need to be completed.

Since many times a new solution needs to be approved and have a definite ROI, how can a workflow management solution add value to your organization?

Increased Efficiency

Workflow management greatly improves efficiency and productivity by allowing for a streamlined way of requesting resources, access, etc. It allows employees to easily manage the status of a request without needing to constantly contact a manager to check on the status of their request. Employees know that once they put in a request and it is approved, the change is automatically made and they can continue with their work.

Fewer Security Issues

Another benefit is that there is an audit trail for every request and change that was made through the workflow. It can record details of the applicant, the request made, time of approval and the approval issuer. This makes it easy for managers to easily generate a report of who has access to what and make changes if needed. It also makes a systems audit extremely easy when that time of the year comes around. Further, it ensures that any issues can easily be detected and corrected, such as in the case of access rights.

Additionally, when an employee leaves the organization an email can be automatically sent to the employee’s manager letting them know exactly all of the resources the employee has, so it can be ensured that they return their laptop, cell phone, etc.

Reduced Workload

An additional benefit is the ability to reduce the workload of both the employee and IT department. Since the entire process is automated, no manual action needs to be taken by anyone, drastically reducing workload. Think about how many requests managers and the IT department get for access changes and resource requests. They no longer need to manually carry out these tasks.

Overall, the implementation of an automated workflow management solution can add great value to an organization and ease many of the problems they are facing with a manual process. It allows employees to request their own resources and ensures that these requests are secure by only being carried out after the proper people give approval. Workflow allows the company to reduce the paper process to ensure security and efficiency and streamlines the entire process.

About the Author: Dean Wiech is managing director of Tools4ever, a global provider of identity and access management solutions.

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