The grip of technology on modern life has tightened over the last decade, especially in the manufacturing world. Innovation, efficiency, safety and hygiene have been on the agenda for a long time, with the latter gaining more attention due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As production lines in many industries, such as pharmaceuticals, food and beverage for the automotive industry, must operate around the clock to support the U.S. economy and beyond, innovation – and the use of technology – in factories and warehouses must continue far beyond a vaccine for the virus has been found.
Today we look at how the development of technology has contributed to the manufacturing sector so far and what the future looks like in a post-pandemic world.
Efficient and efficient production
Every business tries to work in the most efficient and effective ways, but for production it is of paramount importance to produce on time. Over the years, companies in the United States – and beyond – have realized that relying on man-made manual tasks can be a constraint on productivity and profitability. This conundrum has led to the introduction of robots in the last decade to automate complex processes that would previously have been difficult to streamline.
The debate over whether robots should replace humans is one that will probably never go away, but with the latest labor statistics in production showing that productivity declined by 15.5% year on year in the second quarter of 2020 – with a 47% drop in production and 37.3% hours worked – the need for automation has never been more important.
As COVID-19 remains as long as anyone can predict, industry leaders are discussing and looking for ways to use automation to maintain high levels of productivity and reduce human contact.
Alan Duncan, senior strategic director of industry at Blue Yonder, said: “In the event of a pandemic or similar catastrophic event, the focus should be on machines that autonomously perform daily tasks with people who intervene based on experience and complement the machine with strategic actions.
“Ultimately, machines and people working together will guide us through this crisis and those who will inevitably reappear. Automation has become a greater focus on process flexibility, scalability and adaptability, becoming a tool to optimize efficiency through the ability of manufacturers to adapt to requirements.
The relationship between humans and robots creates an interesting topic for discussion far beyond whether robots should replace humans at all. The future certainly seems to involve a happy balance between the two.
Emphasis on safety
Far from productivity levels and profit margins, the long-term existence of a factory or warehouse to work smoothly, in terms of accidents and disruptions in the workplace, relies on safety measures introduced and religiously followed by workers. In 2017, 5.1 injuries per 100 full-time warehouse workers were registered, according to the compiled figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Safety innovations have progressed since 2017 and companies are now in a position to use more and more technology to protect people. One of the ways in which security is taken seriously is through the introduction of radio frequency identification or RFID sensors. Sensors can be used to monitor inventory, but can also generate proximity warnings if workers stray too close to a hazardous area.
Robots are also used to help with automation, especially for dangerous or repetitive processes – and even tasks where people are usually in close contact with each other. In the current situation, this can be life-saving in more ways than one.
In addition to protecting people from heavy machinery or working in a socially remote way, the way equipment is kept in the workplace is vital. The control switches for the machines and the cables used to power them must be well protected and out of sight so that they do not become a danger.
The use of stainless steel electrical enclosures and cable management systems are both ways to combat these problems. Steel is easy to clean for hygienic purposes and is also resistant to corrosion, fire and heat. While the cable holder provides the perfect solution for keeping things safe and secure.
Innovation, innovation, innovation
Production is like many other industries in the world. He must adapt to the new environment when the time comes, and he must strive for progress through innovation every day. The pandemic has exaggerated this need, but in a way that we hope will help boost the economy, at least in the sense that work can be done smoothly without further interruption. The virus is not going anywhere, so innovation is not something that belongs to the five-year plan, it must happen now.
Technology in Manufacturing: Why Innovation Must Never Stop #Technology #Manufacturing