“You either disrupt your own company or someone else will.”
-Peter Diamandis

Manufacturing is changing. Quickly.

Companies are adopting advanced technologies quickly in order to stay competitive. Disruption is the new reality, and those who embrace it as an opportunity, instead of fearing it as a challenge, will sharpen their advantage.

When it comes to hiring, you can expect things to get a lot more competitive for high skilled positions. The people creating and operating the disruptor technology will have their pick of companies, whereas the low skilled workers being replaced will face an uphill road.

Those committed to Process Improvement will have powerful new tools at their disposal. Those who let waste slip through the cracks may find that, without a committed team, technology does little to increase their efficiency and bottom line.

The Robots are Coming:

Disruption In Manufacturing: Robot carrying boxes

Robotics is the most feared disruptor sweeping down on us. But while it’s easy to imagine fully automated factories putting swaths of people out of work, the reality of what’s happening is more complicated.

Fully automated factories are more popular overseas, especially in Asia, than in North America. We tend to be more skeptical of computers, here. Cobiotics, which is the pairing of a robot with a human operator, is becoming more popular in Canada than full automation.

One of the problems with computers is that they do exactly what we tell them to. Automation only works if there’s enough human talent on hand to build, program, and monitor it. If something goes wrong, it’s usually human error and the more automated you are, the more expensive tiny mistakes can be.

Robots can beat humans at many things, but they aren’t problem solvers. Tiny symptoms of waste don’t “bug” robots like they do us, and a computer isn’t compelled to make small changes to fix their environment.

The mainstreaming of robotics will herald a change in the job market. Like the other technological disruptors, it will threaten traditional factory floor jobs but will increase competition for high skilled jobs in software, development, and operators.

The Internet of Things:

Seemingly overnight, we’re able to lock our doors, adjust the thermostat and water our plants with our smartphones. When you apply that tech to manufacturing’s complex systems, you have the makings of a fundamental innovation disruption.

A connected factory would allow us to synthesize massive amounts of data quicker and analyze it on a deeper level than we ever could before. Expect competitive manufacturers to link all aspects of their assembly chain in real time in order to maximize efficiency.

Stanley Black & Decker adapted the Internet of Things into one of its plants in Mexico. The resultant change in efficiency, just by being able to tweak things like required voltage, optimal temperature, and monitor time waste, was impressive. Overall equipment effectiveness increased by 24% and output by 10%.

The Internet of Things is a potential boon for Process Improvement. Those wanting to eliminate waste incrementally over time will have access to more data and insight into where their waste comes from than ever before. Expect companies that embrace this disruptor pro-actively to start to emerge from the pack.