Manufacturing harmony: humans and machines in an era of change

There is no doubt artificial intelligence is going to change manufacturing. Automation already is and in amongst the dystopian panic, there are valid concerns around the displacement of the human workforce. Manufacturing is definitely susceptible – a technical feasibility study done by Mckinsey considers that the prevalence of predictable physical work in the industry means machines could replace a large proportion of jobs. However, without the full picture at the moment, the focus for manufacturers in the short term is how to assimilate people and new technology – and make sure they have the best of both worlds moving forward.

Since the Industrial Revolution, nations have competed with each other to keep ahead of new machinery and technology. This new era is no different. Japan is investing more money in the robotic workforce to stay ahead, and the USA is far behind with giants like Amazon already deploying over 30,000 robots in warehouses. In the race for robots it’s easy to forget your people and that there could be a case to take a more careful (and thoughtful) path to automation. Software CEO, Amit Kothari sees Ai as a tool for people to work smarter, and augment rather than be completely replaced. He touches on the perils of automation – he sees it as a great way to get some tasks done more efficiently but in the longer term his view is that it ‘excluding human intelligence removes valuable feedback.’

We certainly feel this way at Diametric. Human interaction is absolutely integral to our success. Yes innovation and critical thinking help us to stay ahead but it’s also the eye for detail that our assembly team has. They, for example, might have to carry out intricate adhesive work or quality check that resin hasn’t run over. Of course some of our processes are automated, and others will follow, but we’re committed to ensuring that we can align both our workforce and our machines. For us, automating everything in a rush not only means we lose that vital interaction, but also run the risk of sending our customers a sub-standard product.

Holding back the tide of development isn’t an option – I mean there is a robot that can now make 360 burgers an hour! We’re not naïve enough to think that we aren’t about to see the world as we know it change completely but investing in people is going to be important. In the short term, your business will work better if people and automated processes are aligned. In the long term, any change or transition is easier because your workforce are prepared with the skills to adapt – something that humans have been doing since time began.

Graham Steele

Managing Director