Delaware: the perfect mix between human and AI
Richard Seel, Managing Director, Supply Chain & Logistics (UK & US) and Brian Riddell, Head of Human Capital Management at delaware discuss
“For many manufacturers, the process of building efficient, sustainable operational processes is becoming increasingly difficult. Customers are getting more demanding. The pressure is on firms to achieve faster lead times, while also delivering quicker, more efficient customer service. Integrated processes and connectivity to fully-automated machines are key to delivering supply chain and operational efficiencies that will help meet these challenges. But to stay competitive, manufacturers must also ensure they implement the IT systems they need to support these automated processes.
The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) is driving enhanced connectivity across the supply chain, thereby supporting streamlined processes. Robotics and the latest transactional information systems can help manufacturers to operate more efficiently and gain a broader insight into how their supply chain is working.
At a granular level, AI can help manufacturers predict how demand may change based on weather forecasts or historical data patterns. They can then use that data within automated processes that position and rearrange stock for picking processes based on projected demand.
Manufacturers will be able to tap into many benefits as a result of this growing use of automated systems. Technology increases accuracy by avoiding human operator errors. It boosts productivity too. Automating warehouse processes speeds up the picking, scanning and moving of goods. It helps ensure satisfied customers through the fast, efficient delivery of undamaged goods. Improved productivity, fewer errors and enhanced customer service delivers significant cost savings and drives growth.
All this should not and must not mean that there is no place for humans in the manufacturing industry of the future though. There has to be a societal balance. If you take people out of the mix, that balance gets disturbed. The economy will be damaged in a fully-automated world. While machines could produce the goods, people would be out of work and unable to buy them – so there will always be a need for human employees.
Yet, the advance of automation is unrelenting and it clearly presents a challenge to C Level directors including chief financial officers (CFOs) and heads of production, but perhaps most pertinently, chief human resources officers (CHROs).
The most difficult discussion point and issue is around what the future of work will look like and how organisations can best capture the skills needed for that future workplace. That is difficult to predict.
Today, the focus for most automation, in the warehouse at least, is around picking larger bulk items such as pallets and boxes. Piece-picking single items is difficult for automated systems and still typically requires a great deal of human intervention. Manual pickers and packers will still be needed to carry out this kind of intricate task for some time.
But as automation within manufacturing increases, the type of person needed to support that automation changes also. We are already seeing a growing need for resources that understand these more complex systems and are able to operate them, as opposed to operatives, simply following a defined unoptimised set of instructions.
The rate of change is, however, accelerating all the time, with systems become ever more intelligent and capable of informed decision-making. There will still be a need for human workers to provide direction, management and ultimately control.
Manufacturers are therefore often having to bring in new people to fulfil a rapidly changing brief. Nobody really knows the nature of the work new recruits are going to be asked to do in ten or even five years’ time. In some cases, the technology that they will be working with has even been invented yet.
One thing is all but certain though: the requirement for more skilled workers is likely to increase. There will be a growing need for employees who can understand sophisticated automated systems and apply creative thinking to make the systems drive productivity and improve customer services. That presents further problems to businesses though. Employees are likely to want to move on regularly, picking up new skills and then focusing on selling what they have learned to the next manufacturer that wants to invest in it. Manufacturer’s will fight hard to retain their best and most talented employees but in a market where skilled workers hold the cards that might be in vain.
In summary, manufacturers want their operations to work in an optimised and efficient way. Increasingly, they are looking to automation to help them achieve this. Unskilled resources alone will not be able to provide what they want. That said, there will still be need for people to work in the manufacturing plant, production line or warehouse but increasingly they may not be the traditional pickers and packers on short-term contracts, but instead experts in automated solutions who can help ‘supervise’ and optimise the technology, ensuring effective operations to improve the overall contribution to the business.”
For more information on manufacturing topics - please take a look at the latest edition of Manufacturing Global.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.