Tag Archive: automation

Automation or Autonomous?

August 16th, 2020

While leading a panel “Building Resiliency in the Supply Chain” with gurus from Georgia Tech, the leading experts in global logistics and associated research, several intriguing concepts arose.

My Association for Supply Chain Management group led a series of webinars on “Navigating through Volatility” including discussions with several logistics experts from distribution, the ports, transportation, technology and more. Many strategies for success arose during these sessions.

And, last but not least, both my top-notch trusted advisor network, ProVisors and our clients have brought strategies to light. A a result, it seemed prudent to share a few highlights.

Automation vs. Autonomy
Automation is definitely on the rise as organizations determine how to thrive post COVID-19. Statistics show that the automation market is expected to almost double in the next 5 years, and experts show that plans to automate are being accelerated. For example, the automation expected in the Inland Empire in the next 10-15 years will likely be compressed into the next five. On the other hand, automation isn’t all its cracked up to be! For example, when one part of the production line breaks down, you could end up with a pile up of product and waste at the bottleneck. On the other hand, will you be the last person typing on a typewriter? What are your automation plans?

The Georgia Tech experts made the case that automation is analogous to the typewriter. The new concept is autonomous so that machines and vehicles can operate independently of human control or supervision. Could these autonomous vehicles take on roles not previously possible, practical or cost effective? Almost all modes of transportation are candidates for autonomous vehicles. We typically think about trucking convoys, cars, drones and sometimes aircraft but are you also considering the impact of autonomous fork lifts, container ships, high speed trains, cranes, last mile delivery, cargo resupply and more? With the dramatic rise in e-commerce, autonomous drone resupply could be quite the win.

What are the Impacts?
Client examples abound. A small aerospace manufacturer automated a critical production process. Prior to automating this process, the area was a constant bottleneck. Work-in-process was stockpiled in front of the work station as high-skilled workers tried to keep up with the incoming flow of material. They ran as much overtime as feasible to try to keep product flowing to the next process step so that they could meet the customers’ ship date, but it was a never-ending battle with no end in sight. After automating the manufacturing process, the high-skilled resources set up the machines to run throughout the night autonomously. Suddenly, our client was running a three shift operation with the same resources, and customers didn’t experience delays. There was upfront investment in machinery and equipment as well as setup and education.  However, it paid back almost immediately with increased output and sales.

From a logistics point-of-view, WMS systems are gaining traction in the current environment. There are countless options for automation, as well as autonomous capabilities within the warehouse. For example, clients have installed conveyor systems which connect directly to the WMS systems and shipping systems which connects to ERP systems to manage order fulfillment processes. With the rise in e-commerce (and the number of small packages and associated labor requirements), automation can be even more relevant to the bottom line. In fact, there are several options to replace pickers with automated processes. The future will look to automation and autonomy. Will a drone resupply trucks that delivering e-commerce orders?

What Should We Do?
Get up to speed on the possibilities and potential of automation, as well as autonomous machinery and vehicles. As you hear about additional examples, think through the concepts, look for additional applications and brainstorm with colleagues on how these concepts could help your company and/or industry. The best ideas come from those who are willing to voice their ideas, test them under controlled conditions and move forward no matter the obstacles. Create this type of environment at your company, and soon suggestions for automation and autonomous processes will rise to the surface.

We discuss these types of strategies in our eBook on Future-Proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain Post COVID-19. Additionally, follow IEEP, APICS Inland Empire and LMA Consulting as we communicate progress on the consortium for logistics and advanced manufacturing success Check out our articles and webinars, and contact us if you’d like to brainstorm these concepts further.

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Skills Gap – Where Do We Stand?

December 8th, 2019

The skills gap has been a hot topic for many years. Our original research shows a 87% gap. For example, any time Kash Gokli, Engineering Clinic Director at Harvey Mudd and I gather CEOs to talk about timely topics in executive roundtables, no matter the topic of the evening, the lack of talent (or the ‘right’ talent in the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time) arises. As technology comes on to the scene in a BIG way, there is even more conversation, confusion and interest in how to successfully navigate the skills gap.

According to research, automation and robotics have the potential to take over countless jobs. This can be seen as mass destruction of high paying blue collar jobs or it can be seen as a significant opportunity to scale up rapidly to meet rising customer expectations and providing new skills to the workforce. As business owners and executives, we view having the ‘right’ technology at the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time as a win-win-win. Better customer experiences. Better for the bottom line. Better for our employees as they learn new skills. The trick is navigating this skills gap successfully.

We are also starting to see more and more baby boomers start to retire or think about retiring. The unfortunate thing for our clients is that their knowledge base cannot be replaced with one person, maybe not even two sometimes.  That certainly throws a wrench into the plans! Have you started to unearth what knowledge is in your employees’ minds that you take for granted? Innovative companies are pairing up experience with young, fresh ideas. There can be much to gain if managed well.

Please help us understand what is most relevant in today’s business environment. We will share the results for you first, and we appreciate your support. Take our survey here.



Survey says Automation Beats IoT

September 19th, 2019

According to Industry Week’s Tech survey, robots are hot! On the other hand, there is a bit of skepticism with IoT and wearables. In talking with mainly small and medium size manufacturers in answering the question of which technology is most important to your company’s success, AI/ automation came in at #1 by a long shot.  It was followed by data analytics software/ERP/MES and then additive/digital manufacturing.

The article discussed the fact that IoT has been quite successful at driving results but the larger companies are the ones pursuing it. Certainly, with our clients, the small and medium size clients have less resources and need to prioritize.  We are seeing the same set of priorities. With that said, there is a lot of interest in IoT as it relates to connecting equipment, vehicles and more.  However, it is a more complex topic with multiple vendors involved. It just hasn’t been rolled out in any significant way because manufacturers and distributors see more potential for customer and bottom line improvement with automation/AI, ERP systems and additive/digital manufacturing. Are you considering any of these options?

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Since we work with clients that are small and medium closely-held organizations to private equity backed to multi-billion dollar enterprises, it is interesting to note what is in common across the board. Certainly, there is no doubt that almost every executive is at least thinking about automation and robots!

Are you keeping up on the latest thinking on the benefits of technology? We NEVER support technology for technology’s sake. In fact, it is a common mistake for clients to get carried away with the latest and greatest concepts and lose sight of the return to the customer experience and the bottom line. With that said, you have to be aware of what’s out there and be continually evaluating what might make sense for your business.

I just talked with a commercial banker about collaborating on a robotics education session. Why not seek out information and figure out which technology will align with your business strategy and objectives? Then, put together a trial to test the concept without a significant financial commitment. There are also resources to collaborate with to share in these learning opportunities.

For example, we are creating a consortium for advanced manufacturing and logistics excellence in the Inland Empire focused on just this topic. Also, our non-profit APICS Inland Empire group, which is a chapter of the Association for Supply Chain Management, provides symposiums, webinars and tours related to these types of topics. You’ll find more information on these types of topics on our resilient supply chain series.

 

 



The Talent Transformation: People or Robots?

April 10th, 2019

The hot topic in manufacturing, supply chain, healthcare and other industries is the war on talent. No client believes he has enough “high-skilled” resources yet most also feel challenged in finding resources regardless of skill level.

On the other hand, there are statistics and studies showing that there is a talent transformation underway. According to a university of Redlands study, Most large metropolitan areas are subject to losing 55% of their current jobs due to automation. In Inland Southern CA, that number expands to 62%. Thus, what are we doing to get ahead of these trends?

I am the president of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM)’s APICS Inland Empire chapter, and we are hosting an executive panel and networking symposium on this hot topic. We have a powerful lineup of panelists to discuss and debate the talent transformation and the impact of technology and automation.

  • Paul Granillo – CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP)
  • Cindy Elliott – Global Go-to-Market Strategy Manufacturing and Supply Chain, ESRI
  • Jerry Hsiung – Robotics expert, Carnegie Mellon & Harvey Mudd
  • Jermaine Waltemeyer – Recruiter/ Practice Lead, Aerotek

Lastly, we will be adding a manufacturing/ supply chain executive to the panel as well. Seats are going quickly. Learn more and register here.

One tip to implement this week: 

Certainly, if you are interested in getting ahead of the curve in manufacturing, supply chain, healthcare and more in terms of technology and talent, join us at our symposium. It is bound to give you a few ideas!

In addition, join us at APICS-IE for our webinars, tours and programs as we will be talking about this topic and seeing it in action. For example, we will be scheduling a webinar on the digital transformation as well as tours of facilities at various stages of automation. There are also other groups that focus on these topics. For example, the Manufacturing Council of the Inland Empire (MCIE) has its annual summit in February, and the IEEP hosts the Supply Chain Summit which will be on April 26th.

Additionally, of course, there are tons of on-line resources such as the National Association of Manufacturers. And, one key to success is to expand your network so that you have resources and connections that can support your growth and advancement. Think about connecting with a colleague and start a conversation.

 



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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