With an expected 35% increase in adoption of robotic manufacturing technology by 2025, industry competitors are forced to adapt – and quickly. While automation allows manufacturers to piece the many elements of the production process together seamlessly, there are numerous challenges ahead as companies adapt to new systems and technology.
A key component in the transition towards robotic manufacturing is, surprisingly, the human element. M2 Technologies Vice President George Wright remarks, “Collaboration and communication between the components of production will be key for firms to succeed in the future.” Companies will require a truly digital pipeline of information between every team member, be it local, international or outsourced. Take for example a company, with production components, located throughout the U.S. and Mexico. “The ability of their team in Mexico to interpret the data, regardless of origin and translate them into physical components quickly and efficiently has a massive impact on how fast their product can move onto the next stage. Wright states, “You can’t just import [the design] and go. The logic behind it is important.” Wright notes that there is a skills gap in the talent pool, and its effects are rippling throughout the manufacturing industry.
A representative from small engine manufacturing company Briggs & Stratton states, “We’re not always able to find employees to match the skill sets we need,” and this is a sentiment echoed by many. The firm, along with other companies throughout the U.S., are donating equipment and working with students at high schools and technical colleges in hopes of spurring interest towards futures in manufacturing. Over the next decade, there will be an excess of nearly 1.5 million manufacturing jobs unfilled due to the skills gap, and with Baby Boomers retiring in droves, the U.S. Census estimating a 0.6% decrease in manufacturing employment by 2020. There are a variety of factors that could explain why this is happening, but regardless, the future of manufacturing relies on young workers who will be able to operate robotic technology in an age of rapid innovation.
Still, manufacturers remain positive. Optimism among manufacturers is at a 20-year high, with 93% of those interviewed optimistic in the future of the sector. Along with technological innovation, output is at an all-time high and companies like M2 that focus on improving process optimization are realizing benefits already. As firms upgrade equipment, increase production and work to fill much-needed positions, they rely increasingly on M2 to find ways in which they can create efficiencies elsewhere. Through better coordination of design, simulation and production in real-time, factories not only cut costs but are able to do more with the same amount of people.
As for new trajectories, M2 is looking towards field service management. Firms are demanding faster response time, such as in machine repairs, to keep factories running as efficiently as possible. Field service software will optimize inventory-tracking and repairs by helping manage a machine’s internal log of what needs repairing or replacing and when. The software will be able to dispatch someone nearby to repair it, who will know what he or she needs before arriving, rather than making multiple trips to diagnose the problem and make repairs. By cutting costs and decreasing downtime, field service software is an interesting new direction in process optimization.