Digital transformation is re-shaping the manufacturing industry– and the impact of these technologies on task automation is especially significant given current global market uncertainties. Globally, the demand for manufacturing products is following a slow growth pattern and the threat of possible trade wars continues to rattle international markets. In these uncertain times, automation technology gives businesses a critical competitive advantage. Automation advancements can help companies boost their productivity, cut costs, and explore new business models. While automation upgrades require an upfront technology and talent investment, companies that make these investments stand to gain a first-mover advantage in this rapidly developing industry.
How Automation Technology Investments Transform Businesses
Robotics and programmable logic controller (PLC) technology are creating new opportunities for operations optimization. The price of these technologies is also dropping, making them an attractive investment potential. According to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, robot prices have dropped by half over the past 30 years. For some companies, robot prices are now even less than personnel costs.
Here’s how automation investments are reshaping manufacturing:
- Faster production times without higher costs. Automation advancements translate directly into productivity gains on the shop floor. These technologies also help hold the line on costs by eliminating the rote manual tasks required in manufacturing, such as running packaging lines and filling vials. They have the potential to drastically reduce takt times, getting products to market faster.
- Higher quality products. Automation advancements help further eliminate human error, allowing manufacturers to create higher quality products. By removing the human variable, processes are more repeatable and less likely to introduce flaws.
- Increased profitability. While it may seem counterintuitive to say that profitability increases when companies hire employees with specialized digital skills, the simple truth is that the increased productivity more than balances it out. Shorter takt times, better-functioning equipment thanks to sensors that collect data and predict when machines need maintenance, and less downtime all allow manufacturers to increase profits.
- New business models. Manufacturers also have the opportunity to add new business models, such as low volume production. Robots, in particular, can be easily programmed for niche tasks, opening new possibilities for product offerings.
Talent: The Key to Unlocking Digital Success
Talent investments are critical to unlocking automation potential. Companies need skilled employees to fill essential roles like PLC programmers, engineers, maintenance operators, continuous improvement engineers, and engineering directors.
Candidates with backgrounds in robotics will prove to be particularly valuable as PLC programmers and in positions that require building out robotics and automation at plants. Manufacturing talent with mechanical engineering and electrical engineering backgrounds will also be needed on the shop floor to run and maintain these machines. Finding these candidates won’t be easy, but doing so is essential. Their expertise will be what enables your business to capitalize on new opportunities and flourish despite global uncertainty.
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