Tag Archive: automation

What’s Ahead in Technology?

January 30th, 2019

To think about what’s ahead in technology, it is important to put it in perspective with what’s ahead in business.  Read our article, “What’s Ahead in Business?” for details on the key trends impacting business:

  1. Importance of the customer experience
  2. Taking the holistic view has become a “must”
  3. Volatility is the new norm
  4. The coming power of manufacturing and supply chain

What’s ahead in technology lines up with these same themes. In order to achieve scalable, profitable growth, technology is an important enabler. The most relevant technology trends include:

  1. ERP Upgrades – More and more companies are realizing that their system infrastructure must keep up with business requirements and customer expectations. As tough as an ERP upgrade can be, it is one of the only ways to make the leap from manual, labor-intensive processes to providing a superior customer experience efficiently.
  2. E-commerce/ Customer Portals – Amazon. Alibaba. Customer collaboration. Need we say more?
  3. Business Intelligence & Data Analytics – We are overwhelmed by mountains of data. We are so anxious to gather data yet we don’t seem to have the appropriate information at our fingertips when we need it. That’s where data analytics comes into the picture. Beyond that, predictive analytics is gaining steam.
  4. Artificial Intelligence – Even my Mom counts on Alexa! In addition, who wouldn’t want a car that self corrects? Predicting customer patterns and behaviors is becoming more important. AI is set to transform many industries over the next several years.
  5. IoT– Smart factories. Smart homes. Connected devices and machines. According to NEWGENAPPS, 60% of global manufacturers will use analytics data tracked using connected devices to analyze and and optimize processes.
  6. Robotics & Automation – Robots may not be taking over the universe tomorrow morning, but they are working hand-in-hand with people to achieve many benefits – improve safety, increase speed and consistency, improve customer satisfaction, fill capacity shortfalls and and increase productivity.
  7. Autonomous Vehicles – Beyond self-driving cars and trucks, autonomous vehicles are used widely in manufacturing and distribution environments.

Are you thinking about which of these technologies will support your business objectives?  Or which are likely to impact your industry?  Consider technology as a key part of your strategy and plans. If you’d like an expert to evaluate which, if any, of these technologies will be relevant to your business, contact us.

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Systems Pragmatist

The Resilient Supply Chain: Should We Invest in Technology? 

AI, Robots, IoT, Blockchain, Hike!



The Resilient Supply Chain: Are You Prepared for AI & Automation?

October 6th, 2018

Will artificial intelligence and automation impact your industry?  Most likely the answer is yes. 

The only question is how. At the very minimum, you should be paying attention so you can make sure you are taking potential advancements into account in your strategy.  

In the accounting industry, AI has the opportunity to transform and automate a significant number of jobs.   Manufacturing has already been impacted by automation. Of course, it is likely to continue to evolve and it has the potential to transform the logistics industry. 

Here are a few potential applications:

  1.  Instructions – Artificial intelligence certainly seems to come in handy when it comes to fixing issues and reviewing instructions.   
  2.  E-Commerce – AI certainly helps to find like-products and complimentary products when purchasing through an e-commerce portal.   
  3.  Intelligent Virtual Assistant – AI can learn how you respond to tasks and requests and answer for you with repeatable and mundane tasks.
  4.  HR Recruiting – Although arguably not as good as an excellent recruiter, AI can find qualified candidates and eliminate legwork in the recruiting task.
  5.  Autonomous Vehicles– Starting within the plant and expanding to trucks and elsewhere, autonomous vehicles are being used to increase efficiencies and reduce risks.
  6.  Robotic Picking Systems – This is one of the largest risks in current logistics operations.  Just as manufacturing has been automating, so will logistics operations. It will be a ‘win’ for costs, efficiencies and speed.  Are you prepared?
  7.  Maintenance – Why go through the long and arduous “old school” view of preventative maintenance when you can look at data and predict exactly what needs to be maintained before it breaks down?
  8.  Customer Demand – The better data on customer demand, the better the entire supply chain can run – quick, efficient and low cost.  
  9.  Repetitive Tasks – Anything that is repetitive is a good candidate to automate.  It will be more repeatable with more consistent quality and at a lower cost.  Are you looking for opportunities?

Look beyond what will directly impact your company.  Review impacts to your end-to-end supply chain. What is likely to disrupt your customers?  How about your suppliers? What can you do to get in front of it?  Thinking ahead and taking action could provide set you apart and provide you with significant opportunity.

 



Manufacturing & California are on Fire!

August 1st, 2018

According to Industry Week and the National Association of Manufacturers, manufacturing is on fire!  

Manufacturers’ optimism registered 95.1% – the highest level EVER recorded! Manufacturers are projecting historic growth in investments (4.1%), hiring (3.1%) and wages (2.7%).  Projected wage growth is the fastest in 17 years.

The bottom line – manufacturing is on fire!

 

 

 

 

 

Now to turn general perceptions on its head, Industry Week did a study of the top states for manufacturing jobs and California was #1! Clearly, this was accomplished in a state that doesn’t favor manufacturing jobs (even though they pay well).  Manufacturing accounts for 11% of the total output of the state, and the state is larger than all but 5 countries (if it were a country). Why aren’t we singing this from the rooftops?!? Are you thinking of ways to leverage this advantage?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
It is our passion that not only is Southern CA #1 in terms of manufacturing but it is “THE place to be”!  You are probably wondering if I had too many Mai Tai’s in Hawaii. Yet, there is a compelling story behind this passion:

  • Customers and consumers –  Southern California is the epicenter of manufacturing and can supply consumers and customers of what would be the 5th largest country in the world same-day
  • Mass customization – The ability to meet changing customer expectations rapidly and customized on the fly
  • More than 40% of imports come in through the Los Angeles ports – Many of these are raw materials and components to supply manufacturers
  • Access to a significant talent pool in Southern California
  • Access to high tech, automation, robotics and more
  • Access to logistics networks
  • Additive manufacturing changes the game
  • Innovation is prevalent – just to overcome the environmental standards, we have to be better!  Imagine if we can get some help with our laws….
  • With wages increasing in Asia, freight costs going up and customers demanding immediate deliveries and frequent changes, manufacturers are seriously considering bringing non-commodity manufacturing back to the U.S.  Why not Southern CA?

Think about how to leverage this massive opportunity and blaze a trail.  If you’d like to strategize with us about how to achieve scalable, profitable growth and maximize your manufacturing power, contact us.

 



Robots Taking on Pharmaceuticals & Food?

July 28th, 2018

 

According to the Wall Street Journal, robots are taking on pharmaceuticals and food preparation.  In pharmaceuticals, companies like Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline are investing heavily in automation to radically change the process of drug discovery.   If robots can handle thousands of samples around the clock (although costs will decrease or be reallocated to more valuable tasks), these results pale in comparison with the vast opportunity to develop drugs quicker!

Are you radically re-thinking and innovating with speed in mind?

Meanwhile, a burger joint will open in San Francisco that makes $6 burgers entirely by robot.  Creator is betting that robots can create burgers more efficiently and better (with techniques borrowed from Michelin-star chefs) than humans.

Now the question will become – when the robot curious wears off, will people frequent a robot run burger shop?  Regardless, the question really becomes – are you considering whether robots or automation might benefit your customers and business value?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
As much as we warn our clients not to get “too” carried away with robots and technology (as it is easy to chase these ideas down a rabbit hole leading nowhere), it is certainly worthwhile to think about the strategic use of technology as it relates to innovation, providing a superior customer experience and in improving performance.  If it fits with your strategy, doesn’t distract from your priorities (or preferably compliments and enhances them) and generates a return on investment, why wouldn’t you consider every option?

One client leveraged the use of robots (designed uniquely for them by internal expertise) so that they could run a critical operation around-the-clock.  They couldn’t find employees with the appropriate skills to run more than first shift and overtime.  And, they were constantly struggling to keep up with orders.  Once the robot was up and running, the bottleneck was virtually eliminated and customers received what they needed when they needed it.  The people on first shift took on the complex tasks, set the robots up to run at night and remained extremely valuable (even more so).

Have you thought about these type of unique innovations to propel your business?  We’ll be starting a new video and interview series, “Innovation: Fast-tracking growth and profits” shortly.  We’d love to hear about your suggestions and innovations.

 

 



The Skills Gap Emerges as #1 at Prominent Supply Chain Conference

May 28th, 2018

At the Southern California Supply Chain and Logistics Summit conference, there were several keynote speakers from industry icons such as Amazon, UPS, Union Pacific and more.  One might expect quite a lot of interesting insights into the latest supply chain trends yet the most common theme among the presentations tied back to the skills gap. It boils down to having the “right people” for success – both in terms of employees and supply chain partners.

 

Several of the themes emerged the supply chain summit:

  1.  Automation: Friend or Foe? With the advances of automation in the supply chain, there is much worry over the impact on people. Yet, several speakers said they HAD to automate and leverage technology just to have a hope of keeping up with the expected growth over the next several years.  When adding in the retirement of baby boomers, will you have the skills to support your business growth?
  2. Someone has to be behind the robot – Even though some robots use artificial intelligence concepts, they aren’t programming themselves.  There is someone behind the robot – programming, maintenance and more. Are you preparing for a job that can be replaced by a robot or are you programming the robot?
  3.  Robots and people side-by-side-  There are some tasks that robots can automate and improve upon whereas there are others it makes sense to employ workers.  Are you preparing your resources to see value in both?
  4.  Matching skills with roles – How does your company stack up?  Another topic of much discussion – mentioned by panelists and attendees alike – the vast majority of executives feel they are falling short when it comes to gaining the skills they need to run their business at the “right” margins.  How clear are you on what you need to successfully run your business? Or are you living on hope it will all work out?
  5.  The rise of flexibility – With the rise of e-commerce, we have BIG spikes.  We need to be thinking about how to incorporate flexibility into our thinking. How flexible are you?
  6. Would you want to be in the role?  There are some jobs set up to be thankless (such as drivers in several environments).  If you wouldn’t want to do the job, how can you expect to keep your workforce?

Since having the “right” talent in the “right” place at the “right” time is #1 to success, investing in talent could be your most important investment of the year.  Do you spend as much time thinking about your people (whether current or new) as you do a major machine or technology purchase? You should!