Over the last 2 years, nearly every manufacturing- or logistics-related industry saw unprecedented demand. Fueled by economic prosperity—and exacerbated by pandemic disruptions—supply just couldn’t keep up. And while many experts believe the global supply chain is finally stabilizing, the takeaway is clear: companies in all industries must find ways to avoid this issue in the future.
As manufacturing and logistics executives come up for air, it’s the perfect time to build automation into key areas of their business. When demand surges again, the companies that do will be ahead of the curve—and ready to take advantage of the opportunities.
How automation can help
For those who adopted automation early on—industrial manufacturing, food and beverage, and packaging, to name a few—the solution to meeting sudden surges in demand may be obvious, but can be challenging to get right. For those who have little experience with automation, it can be difficult to even know where to start.
Fortunately, new technologies, trends and realities are changing things, for early adopters and newbies alike.
Solution 1: AI to predict—and stay ready—for surges
AI is everywhere, but even those who have onboarded AI solutions and tools may not be maximizing their value. As these tools get more intuitive and user friendly, companies will have an easier time leveraging them—for everything from demand forecasting and automated materials procurement to predictive machine maintenance. On the more sophisticated end of the spectrum, AI can even help make and implement production decisions.
One example of this is a system with multiple automated components, connected through a network so that individual robots can “communicate” in real-time to keep operations seamless. AI comes into play here to help the system assess activities to prioritize and assign/reassign tasks among the robots. Predictive analytics within the system can alert managers of potential future issues and required maintenance to avoid costly downtime.
AI will also help automated systems learn and get better over time, so they’ll require far less human intervention. Gartner predicts that autonomic systems will be the wave of the future because they “dynamically modify their own algorithms and behaviors without an external software update, enabling them to rapidly adapt to new conditions in the field, much like humans can.”
Solution 2: Flexible, modular systems for on-the-fly adjustments
Early robotic automation infrastructure was large, immovable and far from flexible. But more compact collaborative robotic applications (cobots) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) will allow manufacturers and other automation users to rejigger and reassign their automation capabilities on the fly. These next-gen robotics solutions also help maximize physical space (pricey and hard to come by as of late) to accommodate surges in demand. AMRs and cobots also allow for tighter packing of inventory (narrower aisles and more stacking) since they’re stronger and more nimble than humans.
Solution 3: Addressing labor shortages and improving morale
The pandemic brought to light a major issue facing industrial employers: their workers are less and less willing to work dull, dirty or dangerous jobs—especially in the face of external threats like illness from COVID-19. Far from replacing the need for human labor, automation solutions can actually make jobs more enjoyable, fulfilling and productive. As vision and motion control technologies become increasingly sophisticated, automation can help shoulder the burden of the jobs that are increasingly hard to fill: repetitive manufacturing jobs, inspection and quality control, materials handling and heavy lifting and even cleaning. Employees are freed up to take on more productive tasks that directly influence business growth and success.
See these solutions, and more, at Automate
If you’re in the market for a new way to keep up with demand surges, Automate is the best place to explore the latest and greatest automation breakthroughs for businesses big and small. Register for free and join us May 22–25, 2023, in Detroit, Michigan.
« View All Blogs