Remember when you first started using a GPS navigation system in your car? First time you used it, you’re thinking “Wow!” Second time, you’re thinking “Wait! I know my commute better!” and then suddenly you wind up in a massive traffic jam.
Come to think of it, it took us around a decade to trust navigation systems and overcome our old habits and concerns, didn’t it? Well think about this: In how many other areas of your life have you been through a similar process? Caught between the fear of letting go of your habit, afraid to secure the advantages of modern technologies? Well, manufacturing is no exception, especially with the rapid developments in Cloud Computing, Industrial IoT (Internet of Things), and AI (Artificial Intelligence).
So why are we still resistant to the digital assistant when it comes to Manufacturing?
There’s obviously the fear of losing control and taking a recommendation from ‘a system’. For example, a GPS system tells you “in half a mile, exit the highway” when you’re confident that you need to stay on the road… What that system “knew” is about an accident that you simply couldn’t have known about. A piece of information (or ‘data’) that the system picked up on, that could have saved you the agony of spending an hour stuck in traffic.
Well, in manufacturing, when an operator selects a certain raw material for a specific work order, he doesn’t have all the relevant ‘data’ needed to make that absolutely optimal decision, does he? On the other hand, a smart system, that’s connected to many of the factory sensors (and other systems as well) can consider an enormous number of data variables which the human brain simply can’t, such as material types, batch expiration dates, storage conditions, material remnants etc., and in a split of a second that system suddenly provides you with the right recommendation.
Another known concern is that technology might replace people and take away their jobs. Come to think of it, going back to GPS navigation systems and how it affected drivers’ jobs at courier companies for example, we didn’t hear about mass dismissals of drivers, did we? But rather companies improved their productivity and levels of services, meaning they became more competitive and eventually, more successful!
The rise of Industrial IoT
The same goes for manufacturing staff. The rise of Industrial IoT (Industry 4.0) and optimization software doesn’t mean that factory workers will lose their jobs, but rather, they’re likely to receive help from these systems, in the form of intelligent alerts from which help them select the right material for each job, perform tools’ maintenance at the right time, and optimally release jobs for production in shorter times, meaning minimizing bottlenecks.
Raw materials monitoring and distribution is just one example of how digital assistance can improve production in the here-and-now. But more valuable is that, as time passes, more and more data about what’s happening – in storage, in production, out in the field – is collected and analyzed by these smart Artificial Intelligence systems, which help factory operators reveal patterns of work that eventually optimize the entire process.
Yes, there’s a reason why we fear losing control to ‘automation’. We’re thinking, at the end of the day, it’s me – not the technology – that will be held accountable. Well, ironically, the exact opposite is the truth – with the right digital assistance, you’re gaining control, not losing it. Just try to imagine a FedEx driver nowadays reading a paper-held map (!) before moving on to his next destination… now you get why these factory workers are on their way to exceeding their performance?
Author: Amir Ben Assa, Chief Marketing Officer at Plataine