Automation is Not Always the Answer

Automation is Not Always the Answer

February 11, 2019

With the maturing of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, there has been a push to automate a variety of processes.  Automation can improve performance and reduce costs, but not all processes will be or should be automated.

Here are a few of the current limitations in automation:

  • Most robots are limited to menial tasks.
  • Climbing stairs or maneuvering in rough surfaces is still difficult.
  • Processes that require decision-making continue to pose challenges.
  • Putting a personal touch on automated services is difficult.
  • Many automated processes are not cost efficient.

This post is based on the Supply Chain Dive article, Not everything in the supply chain should be automated, by Craig Guillot January 22, 2019. Image source: Montgomery Martin / Alamy Stock Photo.

Discussion Questions:

1. Why shouldn’t come processes be automated?

Guidance: Reasons for not automating processes range from cost to technical limitations to processes that need human intervention.  Processes that require a personal touch (the soft skills) may never be automated.  In many cases customers want to interact with a person.  Also, some processes need the ability to understand what the customer wants.  Such processes are difficult, if not impossible, Continue reading

Facebook
Twitter
Next Big Thing? Driverless Delivery with Amazon Scout

Next Big Thing? Driverless Delivery with Amazon Scout

February 10, 2019

Your Amazon Prime packages will soon be delivered to your doorstep by Scout, Amazon’s new six-wheeled autonomous delivery robot.

Amazon is field testing Scout in Snohomish, Washington, to ensure its bot can navigate sidewalk chaos and street traffic. The company is betting that Scout will make last-mile package delivery cheaper, faster, and more efficient.


Video Spotlights:


This post is based on the Wired article, The Prime Challenges for Amazon’s New Delivery Robot, by Matt Simon and Arielle Pardes, January 23, 2019; and the YouTube videos, Amazon Scout, by Amazon, January 23, 2019, and Amazon Scout will usher in the age of autonomous delivery, by TWiT Netcast Network, January 28, 2019. Image source: Tetra Images.

Discussion Questions:

1. What are the benefits of employing robots to deliver packages?

Guidance: Multiple benefits come to mind. It can make the last-mile delivery from a transportation hub to customers’ homes cheaper, faster, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly. It may make economic sense to augment a human delivery fleet with robots.

2. What are the challenges for Amazon’s delivery robot?

Guidance: The robot Continue reading

Facebook
Twitter
Revamping Time and Motion Studies

Revamping Time and Motion Studies

January 31, 2019

A new survey indicates that humans, not machines, perform 72 percent of manufacturing tasks.  However, when companies look at improving efficiency, they often overlook how to make humans more productive and focus instead on how to replace them with automation.

Robots are well suited for some tasks, but many other tasks still require the human touch.  In addition, industrial engineers often use time and motion study techniques which, while valuable, have been in use since Henry Ford’s days in the early 1900’s.

Perhaps it’s time to use new data gathering methodologies to increase worker productivity.

This post is based on the Design News article, Is it time to make human workers more efficient?, by Rob Spiegel, January 2, 2019. Image source: auremar/123RF.

Discussion Questions:

1. Why don’t companies spend more time analyzing workers to improve their efficiency?

Guidance: According to the article, manufacturers often put a greater emphasis on the potential benefits of automation because of the difficulties in quantifying investments and potential payoffs associated with improving worker proficiency.

Also, it takes a great deal of time for industrial engineers to conduct these studies. The measurement techniques have not changed to reflect the digital age.

2. Continue reading

Facebook
Twitter