Many organizations are conditioned to avoid "automation."
Automation seems to imply that humans will rapidly be automated out of jobs. This is simply untrue.
In the wireless infrastructure space, the automation of a network builder's process starts slowly. In the beginning, specific, repetitive tasks are automated. This automation frees resources up to work on business improvements, such as quality, communication, and efficiency.
In fact, our industry is already reaping the benefits of automated system performance and network usage tracking. Implementing these tools did not eliminate jobs. Instead, they made it possible to expand the network and hire more workers to support increasing demand.
In life, change is inevitable. In business, change is vital. – Warren G. Bennis
A typical wireless program is broken down into various work groups:
- Radio Frequency (RF) Engineering - determines the need and finds the optimal antenna location
- (RE) Real Estate - hires the Architect and Engineering (A&E) – Designs and produces drawings
- Site Acquisition - secures the space, lease or ROW (Right of Way)
- Equipment Engineering – determines the project’s equipment needs
- Transport - connects the technology with fiber
- Implementation - builds the vision
- Operations - maintains the site
- System Performance - optimizes the network
- Regulatory - documents the site
Within each of these workgroups, there are opportunities for automation and areas where automation has already begun.
RF relies on propagation and GIS tools to find the search ring. A&E uses AutoCAD to develop drawings that articulate the design quickly. Site Acquisition depends on software tools to modify leases and improve the cycle time. Transport uses tools to efficiently source fiber to the location of the site while Equipment Engineering uses tools to search for the correct equipment. Implementation and Operations rely on tools and processes to check construction quality and troubleshoot and repair the network.
To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. – Winston Churchill
Automation is Necessary to Growth
Over the previous 30+ years, the wireless industry has contributed 300,000 towers, rooftops, small cells, and DAS venues to America's infrastructure, all to provide greater speed and coverage. As we step into 5G, the demand only increases with a predicted 800,000+ sites needed to support the capacity and speeds of Gigabit wireless.
Walking through the road to automation means implementing incremental changes that provide almost immediate benefit and pave the way for future improvements.
Automation's Next Steps
Automating the site selection process would eliminate the need for site walks and make it easy to identify pre-existing structures and other location data.
After site selection, an automated notification could kick-off the work of the A&E team. This team would track the production of drawings, specifications, and other work products with automatic date/time stamps that eliminate manual date entry into PM software.
At each step of the process, from project kick off to the final delivery of site documentation, automatic data gathering, and communication could maintain project momentum and reduce errors, misses, and inefficiencies.
Active Oversight supports automation between disciplines by providing automated measurement, tracking, and collaboration. This takes care of the first, crucial step toward project efficiency: breaking down discipline silos.
When communication is automated, everyone on the project knows where the other teams are in the project and can anticipate when their support will be needed. Embracing automation is not about automating disciplines; instead, it focuses on automating the processes within the discipline to improve both quality and efficiency.