As the industry moves to automation and more integrated solutions, is the human element still a critical factor in the success of an operation?
The industry and global competition is forcing companies to become more cost effective. Often, they look to automation as a simple solution to reduce the labor burden in cost of goods sold. They may also look at automation as a way to reduce human error in plant floor operations.
The reality is that humans program automation, and the human worker is far superior in problem solving and identifying abnormalities that may never have been considered when programming for the many variables possible in your MES.
Even Tesla realized this in their growth as indicated by Elon Musk when he said:
I had a customer share an example where intermittently they were having part feed jams on a machine. The engineer verified all of the dimensions and everything checked out. He was stumped. The operator later informed the engineer that it only happens when the HVAC system kicks on and there is a duct over the machine. With this understanding, they were then able to replicate this issue to validate its cause, then diverted the air flow and solved the problem.
Environmental factors such as this one are only one example of the many factors that are often overlooked or simply aren't cost effective to automate or integrate.
Simple problems like this are very difficult to factor into automation, due to product variability and environmental shifts that can and do create real challenges for plants.
The human mind has and will continue to be a critical asset in the manufacturing world, and we will evolve – just like the technology – to continue to add value in new and creative ways to reinvent manufacturing.
Read more on Why People are the Best Manufacturing System.