Tag Archive: robots

Will Robots Pay Back?

January 13th, 2018

Supply Chain Briefing

I attended a compelling ProVisors presentation for manufacturers and distributors on the latest trends in technology for manufacturing.  Our presenter, Craig Young, discussed the latest advances in technology and what manufacturers should be thinking about to succeed in the New Year.  Robots were front and center in the discussion.

Robots in the workplace

Automation Advancements
Fully automated packaging lines should be quite popular with a typical 1-2 year payback – and that is prior to thinking about a vast array of non-financial advantages.  

Next up on the robots front is automatic storage and retrieval systems – although a longer payback of typically 5 years, they can bring a host of advantages and increase competitiveness.  

And, last but not least, we discussed laser guided vehicles with a typical 10-20 year payback with different advantages.   

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Clearly, throwing robots at every problem is like Maslow’s hammer and the nail quote (if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail).  Don’t do it!!  However, obviously, from the opposite perspective, there is something quite compelling about robots to achieve manufacturing objectives – profitable and scalable growth.  

Robots aren’t new.  I clearly remember a colleague at one of my jobs from 25 years ago when I was in planning/ purchasing/ inventory at Santa Fe Plastics (a plastic injection molding operation that produced consumer products like the jars for face cream) who spent 70% of his time working on a robot.  There were clear cut advantages, even way back then!   

Although a lot of executives think about robots from an automation and cost savings perspective, there are more important advantages such as keeping up with growth, replacing people as they retire (since it is a tough market to find good manufacturing resources), 24/7 focus and more.  

One of my current clients designed a robot that works around-the-clock.  Since putting the robot in place, they are able to keep up with customer requirements, have precise quality control and have maintained their long-term, high-skilled resources on first shift.  A definite win!  Others have brought manufacturing back to the U.S. – and even to California.

Everything in Perspective
Remember, robots shouldn’t be viewed as a hammer.  Think about what you need to accomplish and evaluate robots as one tool/solution to a business issue.  We are in the age of the customer experience.  Will robots help or hurt you with this endeavor?  Depending on your specific situation, it could go either way.  Think before jumping.

 



Leveraging Technology for Supply Chain Success

November 11th, 2017

Supply Chain Briefing

My APICS Inland Empire chapter hosted our 11th executive panel and networking symposium on Leveraging Technology for Supply Chain Success.  We had interesting discussions with top notch panelists spanning the end-to-end supply chain from Disney to OceanX.  The panel covered diverse supply chain topics such as autonomous vehicles and machine learning – thanks to  Terrie Dean, Craig Young, Stephen Richie, Thomas Jelenic and Matt Weinberg .  The event was a complete success thanks in large part to our Board of Directors (pictured below) – Valerie Ladd, Kevin Manning, Lisa Anderson, Parizad Sethna, Phil Elhai, Pamela Scrivner , Tony Martinez, Kate Loin-Barron, and Helen Arambulo.    

The Impact Technology is Having on our Economy
It is compelling to think about the BIG impact technology is having on manufacturing, transportation, warehousing and more.  Robots are taking over several aspects of manufacturing and distribution to speed up the process and reduce costs, so that we can be more competitive and successful in Southern California.  Have you thought about what this could mean to our economy?  Machine learning and artificial intelligence is also prevalent.  What could we accomplish by having the “right” data at the “right” time in the “right” place?  The down-the-line impacts of the strategic use of data are staggering.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
Leveraging technology for supply chain success is a vast topic. So, it makes sense to start by absorbing the relevance and importance of the topic.  Our most successful clients are constantly looking for ways to leverage technology to not only deliver products and services more quickly (think the Amazon effect) but also to remain viable from a cost perspective.  Have you thought about the value that can be gained by IoT?  The internet of things can capture data so that repair folks can be ahead of the game, parts can be available much more quickly, items can talk to one another (such as cars to traffic lights) and much more.  

The least we should do is be aware of the dramatic impacts technology could have on our businesses and to our customer experience.  Have you considered how to utilize technology to stand out from the crowd and deliver exceptional service so that your customers don’t even think of buying from anyone other than you?  Can you utilize data to better understand their needs?  Can you use technology to provide additional value?  What else could you do?  Gather your team and brainstorm.  Involve your customers in the conversation as well.  

Let me know how it goes.   

 



Robots, IoT, AI, Autonomous Vehicles and More – Update From APICS 2017

October 18th, 2017

Supply Chain Briefing

I’ve been attending APICS 2017 in San Antonio, and there is LOT of talk about the digital transformation of the end-to-end supply chain. I listened to executives from J&J, Cisco, Microsoft, Whole Foods, Caterpillar, and innovative high-tech, rapidly growing companies, and the consensus is: Pay attention to technology. There is an opportunity to learn about the latest technologies such as robots, IoT, artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, blockchain and more at APICS Inland Empire‘s executive panel and networking symposium on “Leveraging Technology for Supply Chain Success“. More important than understanding these cutting edge technologies, is thinking about how to apply them for end-to-end supply chain success. Are you taking the time to think about the impacts to your business and your career? Join us on Nov 4th.

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

To get the juices flowing in advance of this important industry event, start thinking about the potential impact to your business. For example, IoT has a lot of benefit for predicting machine maintenance needs. However, it can go far beyond this simple use. I’ll dedicate another article to just this topic as the APICS 2017 speaker from Microsoft had several compelling examples which will not only radically change how we perform jobs but it will also radically change the types of people we look for and the background/training that might give an interested candidate an exciting job.

Blockchain can have an enormous impact when considering the increasing need for transparency and risk mitigation with all the security issues that have occurred lately. The potential impact could be enormous for connecting partners and transactions in the end-to-end supply chain in a fast, secure and informed way.

Autonomous vehicles for all intensive purposes are “here”. It will take some time with testing and regulations but there will be interesting impacts when considering some of the issues that plague transportation today. For example, drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours a day; however, an autonomous vehicle could.  What would that mean for the speed and cost of deliveries?

Join us to learn about these technologies and more.

 



Robots & Demographics

June 7th, 2017

According to Industry Week and Moody’s Investor Service, there could be a significant upside to robots with the near-term demographic time bomb in Japan and Germany. Certainly, work will need to continue to get done; however, as more and more workers retire, that could become a challenge. Thus, robots might have another advantage in addition to automation – as the percentage of workers over 65 is expected to soar in both Japan and Germany, robots might substitute for labor. Also, both countries are early robot adopters. The time is ripe for robots.

Robots & Demographics

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

The key question is whether you are pursuing automation, robots and other strategies to meet your objectives – whether it is to increase efficiency, replace labor (as it becomes harder to find) or to increase accuracy. If you don’t start thinking about how to incorporate this type of strategic thinking into your plans now, the opportunity is likely to pass you by.

Technology changes daily. For example, there is never the “right” time to purchase a computer. By the time you purchase the computer, technology has changed. However, if you wait for that perfect time, it could be similar to hanging onto a Blackberry waiting for the perfect upgrade. Instead, think about which technology and automation is important in supporting your business objectives. Don’t just pursue technology for technology’s sake but correlate the appropriate technology with your business objectives to achieve success. Do a bit of research, ask experts, put together plans and ACT while the technology is still ripe.



Are Robots Good or Bad?

April 19th, 2017

According to the Material Handling & Logistics, robots are slashing U.S. wages and worsening pay inequality. That is certainly a provocative statement! According to new research by MIT’s Daron Acemoglu and Boston University’s Pascual Restrepo, one additional robot per thousand workers reduces the employment to population ratio from 0.18 percentage points to 0.34 percentage points and slashes wages from 0.25% to 0.5%. Regardless of the exact figures, it is certainly accurate that robots will replace certain types of jobs.

automation

Is this good or bad? It is for you to decide based on your circumstances. Technology and automation can keep you competitive and “save” higher skilled jobs since costs are reduced and so there is less incentive to move manufacturing away from the customer base to a lower cost location. On the other hand, robots will minimize the number of repetitive jobs needed. Are you continually building on your skills? And, are you supporting continual skills building in your workforce?

 

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?

We are hearing more and more about technology, automation and robots. Thus, if you aren’t at least thinking about this strategy, you’ll likely be left in the dust. With that said, we are the first to say — do not automate for the sake of automation. Does it support a key need of your business? Will it help you provide a better customer experience? Will it help you be more competitive to grow your business? Think carefully before jumping for the sake of following the popular trend.

If you don’t have a high labor cost environment, will robots make sense? Perhaps not. Just like everyone and his brother jumped on the outsourcing craze several years ago and many later discovered it didn’t make sense in their case (often by learning the hard way with unhappy customers), think before you leap. Stay on top of the latest technology and search for business needs where this tool “fits the bill” to drive business results but do not blindly follow any person or crowd.