Engineering Tomorrow, Today: Automation Technologies Run on People Power

  • Celestica  |
  • 2019-11-13

Many factors are spurring manufacturing companies to implement automation technologies, beginning with off-setting the challenges created by the global skilled labor shortage. But -  it’s critical to understand that automating manual processes is just a first step. The goal is not to replace people - it’s to empower them to focus more of their time and energy on their priority projects. Any organization that ignores the human element of its operations in its zeal to deploy automation technologies will fail to realize the benefits automation can deliver.

“Success requires a combination of technology and people power, so it’s imperative to invest in engineering talent to get ahead of the curve today and stay there tomorrow,” says Dr. Kevin Dempsey, Celestica’s Technical Business Development Director. “The Factory of the Future will be built with automated systems and skilled personnel who provide expert oversight, and that will not change no matter how ‘smart’ the machines become.”

A Foundation of Technology and People
“Factory of the Future” describes the convergence of operational technology (e.g., automation), and information technology (e.g., A.I.) to increase efficiency and achieve higher levels of product quality and customer satisfaction. And it’s understandable that companies working to achieve this convergence can fall into the trap of focusing on implementing new technologies at the expense of recruiting, hiring and training the highly skilled operators.

We recently surveyed 150 global senior decision-makers at OEMs across a wide range of industries about the current state of their supply chains, and what their priorities are as they look out over the next five years. When we asked them to select which factors pose the greatest threats to their business’ success, two of the most common responses were “failure to adopt new technologies effectively” (52%), and “failure to adopt new technologies fast enough” (49%), behind only cybersecurity threats (59%).  

This pressure to always be on the leading edge of technology adoption is one dimension of operating in what we call The Acceleration Economy - a transformative era driven by three powerful forces: constant technological innovation, globalized competition, and higher-than-ever customer expectations. 

A majority of the OEMs we surveyed told us they’ve begun at least evaluating how various emerging technologies like automation, AI, 5G wireless, and edge computing can have a positive impact on their supply chains between now and 2025. In fact, about one third (34%) have already fully implemented manufacturing automation technologies.

As we explained in part one of this series, companies are taking the necessary first step if they are now evaluating how automation can replace manual processes and maximize the utilization of assets. There won’t be a successful factory in five years that has not implemented some form of automation. 

Never Underestimate the Power of Your People
But automation technologies cannot deliver these benefits if the OEM does not have the personnel with the skills and expertise required to operate and maintain the sophisticated, complex machines. 

Part two of this series examines how Celestica works with its customers to address “The 4 M’s” to determine how automation technologies fit into their operations today and over the long term. The potential benefits are myriad, including compensating for the current global skilled labor shortage, ensure incoming materials meet quality, quantities and durability requirements, predicting and preventing mechanical failures, and enabling OEMs to be more proactive in assessing potential risks across all operations.

Practicing What We Preach
The 4 M’s have guided our own investments in a wide range of automation technologies across our Centers of Excellence network. However, we know that our people are just as important as the technologies we deploy. Their expertise informed by our decades of experience is equally important to our ability to develop specialized solutions, drive product innovation, and help our customers realize cost savings, supply chain efficiencies and accelerate time-to-market.

Whether you implement automation technologies on a piecemeal basis, or decide to create an end-to-end automated line, there are two key takeaways from this series. First, the processes of evaluating how automation can benefit your operations requires a commitment of time and the expert counsel that a trusted partner like Celestica can deliver. 

Second, you need to make the same commitment to achieving the balance between technology and people power that will enable your organization to effectively address issues across a wide range of areas including scalability, quality, efficiency and risk reduction. 

Follow this link to learn how Celestica’s manufacturing services can help you build your Factory of the Future to give you a competitive edge today and over the long-term. 

If you haven’t read the first two parts of this series, here are the links:

●     Part 1: “Engineering Tomorrow, Today: How Does Automation Fit Into Your Manufacturing Operations?

●     Part 2: “Engineering Tomorrow, Today: How Automation Addresses “The Four M's” of Manufacturing