Tag Archive: robots

Collaboration is NO LONGER a Fluffy Topic

February 16th, 2020

I facilitated an executive panel discussion on “Collaboration for Advanced Manufacturing & Supply Chain Success” with diverse viewpoints from transportation (Ontario airport), manufacturing (AMETEK Ameron), technology for manufacturing and logistics from the global leader in GIS (ESRI), and innovation, incubator and accelerator gurus.  It was a fascinating discussion on the value of collaboration, to innovate or not, robots or people and other controversial hot topics.

The key takeaways included the following:

  • The Value of Partners – Several panelists talked about the value of choosing your partners wisely. No one person and no one company can do it alone. In fact, we often collaborate not only with “usual suspects” but also with ones we might not suspect, such as our competition. When you can find a way to collaborate with competition where you both “win”, a powerful outcome will result.
  • Fail Forward – This was a powerful insight from one of the panelists. As I always say in speeches on innovation, you have to fail to be successful in innovation. Do we see our failures as ‘failing forward’? Or do we hide under a rock?
  • Robots or People? – We had a bit of debate. Will robots replace jobs? Absolutely! But can they also create jobs? Fill gaps left by the retiring baby boomer? Increase the quality of manual tasks? And enable far greater capacity? Absolutely!
  • Is all Innovation Good?  –  Of course not! Again, if a topic is a good one, it will stir up debate.  Wasting lots of time innovating for non-existent returns on investment isn’t a smart move. On the other hand, the pure nature of innovation will require failure. How do we navigate when to innovate and when not to innovate?
  • Is all Collaboration Good? Again, absolutely NOT! Wasting time collaborating when a quick decision must be made is worse than a waste of time. On the other hand, if we can turn 1 + 1 + 1 = 33, it certainly seems worth it. Just don’t think about your standard partners only. Why not industry groups, educational institutions, and more?

Take a few minutes to think about collaboration. What have you seen work best? Actually, back up. No one should just think about collaboration. Instead, we should be thinking about our end result. Where do you want to go and what do you want to achieve? Now, think about the best use of collaboration, innovation, technology and other topics that will accelerate success.



The Skills Gap in the Modern Era

October 2nd, 2019

People are the #1 topic on our most successful clients’ executives minds. That’s because these clients realize that even the best strategies and plans will fail without people.

On the other hand, we have seen clients who appear the least likely to succeed, overcome great obstacles to not only become competitive but also to gain a strategic advantage in the marketplace. The secret ingredient is people. As a former VP of Operations and Supply Chain, there was no doubt that my success was directly correlated to the strength and attitude of my team.

Since it is such a key topic to ensuring growth and profitability, we wanted to dig into the current state of the skills gap. As a follow up to our research several years ago when we found that 87% of companies were experiencing a skills gap, we wanted to understand the current state of this topic and how it has evolved as we are knee deep in the technology era. For example, there is quite a bit of discussion on the topic of people vs. robots. Do we need to think about the skills gap if robots can take over? In other circles, the talk is all about artificial intelligence (AI). Will AI transform the industry? For example, there is a concern about this happening in the accounting profession. However, it might just mean that those trusted advisors must add value to what can be taken over by robots. That is certainly true in manufacturing environments. The skill requirements are changing. Perhaps we need people to interpret data? And how about to get people and technology to work together?

Please take our skills gap survey as we would appreciate your feedback into the following types of questions:

  • Which skills do you need the most?
  • Are technical skills enough? Do you need a savvy communicator as well?
  • How do you find your best talent?
  • Do you offer incentive to keep top talent such as rewards and recognition programs, performance management programs (tied with compensation systems) etc.?
  • How have you seen these requirements changing with the hot bed of technology?

A few highlights from what we’ve seen at a cross-section of clients across closely-held businesses to private equity backed companies to global enterprises:

  • Broad skills: Companies are looking for a broader base of skills. It is no longer sufficient to be an expert in a specialized area.
  • Presentation skills: Those who can present ideas effectively succeed whereas the most talented resources will struggle if they can’t get their ideas across.
  • Technology overload: Although everyone is interested in the latest technology, we are overwhelmed with all the options. Selecting just enough technology to advance a key point is often the best course of action.
  • Your network is your most valuable asset: It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a new hire, sourcing a supplier or getting just the ‘right’ trusted advisor at just the ‘right’ moment, the best way to find these resources is through your network. Are you nurturing your network?

The bottom line is that the most successful companies pay close attention to their #1 asset, their people. This idea extends to your customers, suppliers, trusted advisors and more since your face to your customer will be inclusive of each of these people. As the rubber meets the road, navigating your skills base will be of paramount importance.

Participate in our skills gap survey and we will ensure you are the first to receive the findings to help all of us successfully navigate the skills gap.

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Talent Transformation: People or Robots?

August 23rd, 2019
As much as I’m seeing last month’s feature article on the bedrock topic of inventory continuing to ring true (clients are gaining more interest in reducing inventory levels to free up cash), the promise of technology (automation and robots) is enticing many clients to at least assess what they should be doing when it comes to the topic of the talent transformation. I cannot think of a client that doesn’t have some sort of a talent gap.

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People & Robots Can Co-Exist Successfully

May 23rd, 2019

We held an engaging executive panel discussion at our APICS Inland Empire spring symposium on the topic: “The Talent Transformation: People or Robots? There is quite a lot of hoopla in Inland Southern California as this geography is larger than all but 24 states (and soon will take over Lousiana) with a strong manufacturing and logistics base.  Yet, the threat and opportunity of automation is close at hand. 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%. What will this mean? Disaster or opportunity?

According to a robotics expert with a background in industry, Carnegie Mellon and Harvey Mudd, the CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP), a Director at Honeywell and a recruiter and practice lead at Aerotek, we can rest assured that people and robots can co-exist successfully. Of course, this assumes we are proactive in thinking about automation, retraining and educating our workforce and providing the insights and collaboration opportunities such as the executive panel event.

We had some probing questions from the manufacturing and distribution professionals in the audience, but it was unanimous that a solution exists. We also talked about Middle Harbor which is a high-tech area of the ports. This has proven more challenging as negotiations have put some people out of a job yet still getting paid for it. With that said, there were many examples of success with business growing 3-fold while the company doubled the workforce and more. Hiding under a rock is definitely not the route to success. Instead, be a part of the collaborative effort.

As a Board member of IEEP and a supply chain expert, I am helping to lead a consortium for advanced manufacturing and logistics success to address just this topic (resulting from the Brookings study research). If you are interested in staying in the loop with updates, please email me. I’ve created a special interest list for this topic.

The students from Harvey Mudd presented some exciting robotics research they are conducting with industry on how to successfully navigate cluttered workspaces (as most manufacturing and distribution clients require). Much progress is being made.  And, robots aren’t going away. There are many positives in terms of consistency of quality, replacing competitive motion tasks, reducing workers compensation and labor risks in addition to cost savings. With that said, there are also some challenges to overcome such as what happens when technology goes wrong (like with the Boeing 737 Max). There is always risks to mitigate and people who are overlooked. The panel discussed the Challenger disaster and the employee who warned ahead of time to the technical glitch.

What are you doing to evaluate technology from a strategic standpoint? Will you be left in the dust? Grocery stores might have been a bit complacent before Amazon bought Whole Foods. Are you complacent? On the other hand, please don’t follow fads. When everyone thought outsourcing was great and Boards insisted on following the trend no matter the total impact, several companies outsourced and were sorry later when service went down and costs weren’t saved. If you’d like an assessment, contact us.

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The Talent Transformation: People or Robots?

April 14th, 2019

automationNo matter the industry and geography, the topic of “People vs. Robots” is a hot topic!

Certainly, manufacturing has been focused on technology and automation for quite some time to navigate the path to thrive in the modern environment of high costs, regulations, and elevated customer demands.

The Manufacturing and Technology Expo in Pittsburgh is going back to the theme of the 1939 World’s Fair, “The World of Tomorrow”. The Manufacturing sector has seen positive job growth not seen in 79 years. As Industry Week says, “We don’t have smoking robots but we have ones that perform lung surgery.”

Our APICS Inland Empire Chapter is hosting an executive panel and networking symposium on just this topic, “The Talent Transformation: People or Robots?” on April 13th at Harvey Mudd. We have an intriguing panel of executives and experts to discuss automation, robots, IoT, AI and much more. How do we co-exist successfully? Join us to learn more and probe further.

In logistics circles, there is quite a bit of worry and opportunity. 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%. However, it depends on your thought process. UPS automated a section of their facility that reduced the number of people they needed by 100 yet they ended up hiring as they absorbed additional volume. Additionally, it depends on whether you are furthering your education and skills. We find proactive employees and employers in our Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM)’s APICS certification classes who want to learn and grow.

For Inland Southern California, we have a particularly unique opportunity or challenge, depending on how you want to look at it. According to a Brookings study, we must focus on advancing the capabilities and competitiveness of local firms in opportunity-rich manufacturing and logistics industries. What an opportunity for us to leverage technology hand-in-hand with talent to THRIVE.

If you are interested in discussing whether your organization is prepared to leverage these opportunities and what priorities should emerge, contact us. We are experts and would love to see the U.S., California and the Inland Empire take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to enable scalable, profitable growth.

Find out how to navigate disruption and achieve peak performance.

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