The Long Road to Business Process Automation and Apptitude Part III: Incubators to Software

“I couldn’t tell you in any detail how my computer works. I use it with a layer of automation.”
– Conrad Wolfram

In part II of our series on, “The Long Road to Business Process Automation and Apptitude,” we pushed the history of process automation back to the eighth century B.C. We ended our discussion by describing how Jacquard’s famous automated loom and how automation, stored programming and data entry owe a debt of gratitude to the loom’s ability to change weave patterns by changing punched cards. Pushing forward in time we find more solid evidence of real automation which laid the groundwork for modern business process automation.

Amazingly, devices for automatically controlling the temperature in egg incubators were being used throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Other thermostatic devices followed up through the 19th century, each with varying improvements over previous devices. The whole idea of automating processes was now in full swing, to the extent that contemporary technology allowed.

The steam engine not only helped propel the assembly line, but also takes a place in automation history. But most people don’t realize that there was one special part that set later steam engines apart from earlier models; the mechanical governor. In the 18th century an ingenious mechanical governor was invented to control the speed of the engine. Perhaps the most important automatic control device of the period, the idea for the steam engine governor came from a most unlikely source. A century before, the centrifugal governor was being used in grist mills to control the gap between the upper and lower millstones. When grinding grains, it was necessary to carefully monitor the gap in order to achieve consistency in the final ground product.

Automated telephone switchboards, automatic bottle-making machines and myriad other automated applications through the computer age have demonstrated the importance of automation in our lives. We’re now in the 21st century and computers conveniently run process automation of every form imaginable. We have software at our fingertips to automate every process that organizations throw at us, and then some. Process automation is optimizing organizational operations in several key areas. Workflow and automation of processes deserve a spot at the top of the list. Automating routine tasks can give businesses that extra “edge” they need by driving efficiencies and controlling costs – a tried and true recipe for success.

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