As the Manufacturing Leadership Council’s latest Factories of the Future survey
shows, many companies have implemented
digitization in the places where it’s easiest and
most logical to deploy or have plans to do so
soon. That includes using automation processes like robotics, building and expanding networks on the factory floor, and using analytics
and sensor networks to monitor machine performance. It’s the coming shift that shows the
next iteration of interaction between humans
and machines. Rather than simply using robotic process automation, more manufacturers anticipate that they’ll deploy cobots. Rather
than just automating maintenance at regular
intervals, companies are using predictive analytics to perform service as it's needed.
But as the “smart” in smart manufactur-
ing repositions itself, so too must the hu-
mans around those machines, especially
when it comes to leadership. Executives will
need to build their tech savvy and think in a
data-driven manner, while also possessing
the empathy and communication skills it
takes to engage a changing workforce. Per-
haps the new executive motto will become
“act more human, think more machine.”
What seems most worrying from the survey
results is the nearly one-third of respondents
who said their plant floor leadership is not
M4.0 ready and that their company isn’t tak-
ing any steps toward change. Likewise, only
about 20% of respondents said that their plant
floor culture was fully ready for M4.0 adop-
tion or actively moving toward readiness.
It’s been noted before in times of change
that the ones who survive aren’t the stron-gest, but the ones that are most able to adapt.
For many manufacturers, that adaptability
could be ready to meet its first very real test, a
challenge that will put a premium on striking
the right balance in the human-to-machine
relationship. – Penelope Brown
anufacturing has always been where ideas meet reality, or “brain meets
brawn.” What once was merely a concept becomes something you can
touch and see. In many ways, manufacturing is the ultimate blending of
humans and machines. As we move through the transition to Manufac-
turing 4.0, the fundamental difference is in the changing relationship be-
tween those humans and machines. While the intelligent parts of manufacturing have always
belonged to the humans, now it’s becoming the increasing domain of the machines.
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It’s time to re-balance the human-to-machine equation.