This waning year of 2019 featured a constant flurry of commentary about how the business world is being transformed by advanced manufacturing. IIoT, 5G, 3-D printing, AI, VR, revolutionary robots and cobots theyve all had gallons of real and virtual ink spilled about how theyre fundamentally changing the production and supply chain picture.
That commentary is perfectly true. Those giant leaps in technology make it one of the most exciting times ever to work in manufacturing. For big companies with plants like those included in the World Economic Forums Global Lighthouse Network of model Industry 4.0 facilities, its a brave new world in the very best of ways.
But when I talk to the small- and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) that dominate the U.S. producer base, theres often a disconnect between their core concerns and all that glitz and glamor surrounding advanced manufacturing. Particularly in the SMM world, there are many central production jobs that just dont lend themselves to automation. Even with individual jobs that do, though, the mix of work can still make automation a non-starter. And even with work that can be automated, the reality is often that the financial justification simply isnt there to support spending on high-tech solutions.
Bob Jacquart, CEO and owner of Jacquart Fabric Products in Ironwood, Michigan, knows firsthand the barriers to automation for some producers. His firm employs 180 people and does both mass production and custom work, including playground canopies, pet beds, cooling vests, and winter apparel, along with rink pads for the 2009 U.S. Olympic Trials and custom acoustic panels for the Smithsonian American Art Museum. While custom jobs obviously dont warrant automation, surely the firms Stormy Kromer subsidiary, making the iconic felt winter hat, could benefit from it?
I sit on the Board of Directors at Michigan Technological University, and I asked the former Dean of Technology there to see if he could have a team come up with a way to make it robotically, Jacquart said. Their study concluded that it couldnt be done economically.
For other companies, the combination of work precludes the high-tech approach. At HM Manufacturing in Wauconda, Illinois, a machine parts maker of power transmission components, its the changeovers any adjustment in the size, style, material, or design of whats being produced that requires a reset of the production equipment that preclude automation. For HM, automation is difficult, said Nicole Wolter, the companys President and CEO. We do 11 to 12 changeovers a day it just doesnt work for that.
But even if the work fully lends itself to improvement with the application of advanced manufacturing technologies, money can stand in the way. It may be that the firm simply doesnt have the capital available to invest the sums it takes to install new systems. Or it could be an opportunity cost problem; for smaller firms, investing in the basics for growing the business usually makes a lot more sense than spending on high-tech equipment. Finally, it might simply be that labor is so cheap, automation simply isnt economically attractive. In rural areas of the country, where labor costs are lowest, that can be a very good thing, since the jobs are needed there.
A worker checks an industrial robot in a high-tech company.
For SMM executives who express concern about being left behind when they read about our burgeoning advanced manufacturing world, then, my first word of advice is to look frankly at the financials and the business fundamentals, and not to be afraid to conclude that Industry 4.0 simply isnt their answer right now.
But what can SMMs do to ensure their businesses arent left behind in the competitive environment, if automation isnt going to help?
The first is to invest in other ways. Jacquart, finding that he couldnt automate his way to higher productivity, instead improved the plant floor environment for his employees. We installed Vita-Lite full-spectrum lighting, and invested in premium chairs for our workers, he said.
Another option is to invest in smaller machine improvements. Legacy equipment can be vastly improved by upgrading subsystems to newer versions, or by updating control systems to more modern equivalents. One of the most under-reported advantages of the IIoT is the many solutions that are now on offer to improve the performance of existing equipment and manufacturing systems. That was the case for Wolters. There are lots of smaller manufacturers where high-tech isnt a fit just yet so in the meantime Ive invested in IIoT for the factory floor, she said. I believe its important to continue to update with technology as its evolving.
Providing ways for workers to improve their skills is equally important, and that applies to both current employees and potential future ones. Our new employees get the new technology and programming we do have, she said. But they may not get the basic operations. If older workers cant understand the newer technology, then pairing and cross training their jobs with the younger workers sets them up to learn from one another. She also works to educate the local community about manufacturing career opportunities. I feel like I genuinely have an advantage as a small, family-owned business, she mentioned. I can lead efforts at local high schools, offer shop tours, and bring on interns were currently offering four to six-week paid internships.
Collaborative robot technology.
A final focus should be on continuing to look at what technology has to offer. Todays industrial robots cost a fraction of what the early versions did, and modern computerized control systems are cheaper, more robust, and easier to program and maintain than ever. The kinds of jobs that robots can take on have increased dramatically, and with cobots and industrial exoskeletons entering the workplace, what used to be impossible or economically non-viable may soon be practical. Its important that SMM executives continue to stay abreast of what the high-tech world can do for their businesses.
Read more from the original source:
- Automation | Definition of Automation at Dictionary.com - April 2nd, 2020
- Automation - Advantages and disadvantages of automation ... - April 2nd, 2020
- Automation - The Car Company Tycoon Game on Steam - April 2nd, 2020
- Bridging the Network Automation Skills Gap - DevOps.com - April 2nd, 2020
- Yard work: Automation strolls out the warehouse door - ZDNet - April 2nd, 2020
- Five Steps To Get Started With Robotic Automation - Forbes - April 2nd, 2020
- ValueLink drives efficiency in the valuation process through a combination of automation, AI and analytics - HousingWire - April 2nd, 2020
- Bosses speed up automation as virus keeps workers home - The Guardian - April 2nd, 2020
- What is Feature Engineering and Why Does It Need To Be Automated? - Datanami - April 2nd, 2020
- Parascript and Le Mans Tech Partner to Offer Integrated Automation Solutions to Small and Midsize Banks - Yahoo Finance - April 2nd, 2020
- Smartly.io Powers Digital Advertising Innovation and Automation on Pinterest - Business Wire - April 2nd, 2020
- Overcoming the challenges of intelligent automation - ITProPortal - April 2nd, 2020
- Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Promote Mass Automation? - Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence - April 2nd, 2020
- Attractive Opportunities in Automation - Morningstar - April 2nd, 2020
- Automating with a solid foundation - ITProPortal - April 2nd, 2020
- Industry could fast-track automation amid COVID-19 fallout - www.mining-journal.com - April 2nd, 2020
- Building automation to generate $44bn in revenue per annum - Smart Energy - April 2nd, 2020
- The Idea Behind Automating Your Commissions - Yahoo Finance - April 2nd, 2020
- Why Intelligent Automation is the Need of the Hour - CXOToday.com - April 2nd, 2020
- Using RPA to automate internal audits where to start - TechHQ - April 2nd, 2020
- Virtual assistant 'Larry the Chat Bot' brings automated solution... - Hays Free Press - April 2nd, 2020
- Aleyant Celebrates 15 Years of Innovation in Automated Print Software - Industry Analysts Inc - April 2nd, 2020
- Automation Anywhere helps deliver business continuity with RPA industry's first bot security program - Continuity Central - April 2nd, 2020
- Java vs. Python for test automation? Why Ruby is the better choice - TechBeacon - April 2nd, 2020
- Aido Technologies Launches Free Use of AI-Powered Automated CPT and Diagnosis Coding During the US Response to COVID-19 - Associated Press - April 2nd, 2020
- How automation is speeding delivery of COVID-19 results to hospitals - TechRepublic - March 31st, 2020
- Reevaluating the Conversation on Automation and the Future of Work - Georgetown Public Policy Review - Georgetown Public Policy Review - March 31st, 2020
- What will drive the future of automation? - Essential Install - March 31st, 2020
- Home Working Causes Bosses to Increase Automation - DIGIT.FYI - March 31st, 2020
- Load.ng commits to leveraging Tech for Bitcoin to Naira Exchange Automation. - Techpoint Africa - March 31st, 2020
- news digest: Automation Anywhere's Bot Security, Linux 5.6, and the IntelliSense Code Linter for C++ - SD Times - SDTimes.com - March 31st, 2020
- COVID-19 Pandemic Pushes Logistic Automation up the Agenda - Sea News - March 31st, 2020
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Is It Recession Proof? - Forbes - March 16th, 2020
- How AI+Automation Can Transform Tedious Office-Tasks? - Analytics Insight - March 16th, 2020
- Software release cycles accelerate, but automation is not keeping up - ZDNet - March 16th, 2020
- Wannabe Wired: Don't fear the (automated) reaper - The Lawton Constitution - March 16th, 2020
- Study Shows 93% of Employees Believe Process Automation Will Make Jobs Easier - Supply and Demand Chain Executive - March 16th, 2020
- Centralizing Your Systems - Automation World - March 16th, 2020
- Automated trucking, a technical milestone that could disrupt hundreds of thousands of jobs, hits the road - 60 Minutes - CBS News - March 16th, 2020
- Smart bathrooms have been around since the 1980s. But do they help against coronavirus? - NorthJersey.com - March 16th, 2020
- How do financial advisors stay relevant in the age of automation? - Moneyweb.co.za - March 16th, 2020
- How SEOs can benefit from using AI and automation - Econsultancy - March 16th, 2020
- Robotic Process Automation Market World Informing, Growth Analysis And Opportunities Outlook 2020 To 2026 - News Times - March 16th, 2020
- Digital Transformation: UAE Banking Executive Explains How Fintech, AI, Robotic Process Automation is Transforming Finance Sector - Crowdfund Insider - March 16th, 2020
- Why robotic process automation (RPA) is the perfect technology for logistics - FreightWaves - March 16th, 2020
- Research Predicts Automated Deliveries Will Generate up to $48.4B in Revenue by 2030 - Supply and Demand Chain Executive - March 16th, 2020
- SOARIZON by Thales and Iris Automation announce partnership - sUAS News - March 16th, 2020
- This husband-wife duos startup helps companies automate their workflows - YourStory - March 16th, 2020
- Why Police Love the Idea of Automated Content Moderation - Slate - March 16th, 2020
- Smart Elevator Automation System Market 2019 Trends, Size, Segments, Emerging Technologies and Industry Growth by Forecast to 2023 - Packaging News 24 - March 16th, 2020
- Connectivity is the key to early wins in connected and automated mobility - FleetNews - March 16th, 2020
- 2.7m Aussie jobs at risk of automation - ACS - March 16th, 2020
- Bots bring automation to the war on data entry - C4ISRNet - March 16th, 2020
- Will The Tesla Model Y Allow Fully Automated Production To Happen? - InsideEVs - March 16th, 2020
- Bolt-on Software and Automation Technologies Showcased at MODEX - Benzinga - March 11th, 2020
- Helping workers survive automation - Bangkok Post - March 11th, 2020
- AI and Automation in the Workplace - Electropages - March 11th, 2020
- Packsize and 6 River Systems Collaborate on Next-generation Warehouse Automation Technology at MODEX - DC Velocity - March 11th, 2020
- Automation startup Zinier raises $90 million to expand in Brazil - Capacity Media - March 11th, 2020
- Don't miss the big Brexit automation opportunity to improve digital skills - Information Age - March 11th, 2020
- Why enterprises are turning to partnership automation - Gigabit Magazine - Technology News, Magazine and Website - March 11th, 2020
- Kryon Solidifies Leadership in Singapore's Robotic Process Automation Marketplace With Government Accreditation From IMDA - PRNewswire - March 11th, 2020
- Leveraging artificial intelligence to automate data extraction from geotagged images - Geospatial World - March 11th, 2020
- Royal Society of Arts calls for training amid automation rise - The National - March 11th, 2020
- Automated Material Handling Market Expected to Grow with a CAGR of 11.30% During the Forecast Period, 2020-2025 - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Business... - March 11th, 2020
- New and notable: Automation and AI - Greenhouse Canada - March 11th, 2020
- Call Center Automation Depends on Collaborative AI - Customer Think - March 11th, 2020
- Process Automation Software Market (2020 To 2027) is booming worldwide with Adobe, AppSheet, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism - News Times - March 11th, 2020
- Munich Re Automation Solutions on the rise of the insurtech sector - Insurance Business - March 11th, 2020
- APAC Automation & Control Systems Market in the Upstream Oil & Gas Industry, Forecast to 2023 - Positive Market Sentiments Point to Slow... - March 6th, 2020
- Microsoft Goes All-In On RPA (Robotic Process Automation) - Forbes - March 6th, 2020
- Aging and automation shaping workforce, labor secretary tells Worcester business group - Worcester Telegram - March 6th, 2020
- How automation is taking some of the burden for healthcare workers - Tech Wire Asia - March 6th, 2020
- Cisco Focuses on Industrial Cybersecurity and the Edge - Automation World - March 6th, 2020
- Industrial Automation and Instrumentation Market in India 2020-2024 | Evolving Opportunities with ABB Ltd. and Eaton Corp. Plc | Technavio - Yahoo... - March 6th, 2020
- HomePod volume blasting you away? Try this volume automation - 9to5Mac - March 6th, 2020
- Automated Material Handling (AMH) Market, Forecast to 2025 - Daifuku, BEUMER Group, Siemens, JBT, and Honeywell Intelligrated are Dominating - Yahoo... - March 6th, 2020
- IS AUTOMATION A THREAT TO CONSTRUCTION WORKFORCES? - KHL Group - March 6th, 2020
- Growing Importance of Automation and Robotics in Manufacturing & Supply Chains - Analytics Insight - March 6th, 2020
- United States Library Expenditure Market Outlook to 2024 - Increasing Spending on Automation in Libraries Drives Market Growth - PRNewswire - March 6th, 2020