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.”
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Lion Electric to Construct US EV Manufacturing Facility
Who is Lion Electric?
Founded in 2008, is an innovative manufacturer of all-electric, zero-emissions, medium and heavy-duty urban vehicles. Lion Electric designs, manufactures, and assembles all components for its vehicles that have unique features specifically adapted to the users and their needs. “We believe that transitioning to all-electric vehicles will lead to major improvements in our society, environment and overall quality of life,” believes Lion Electric.
Lion Electric’s new Illinois Manufacturing Facility
Just two months after announcing plans to construct a battery manufacturing plant and innovation centre in Quebec, Lion Electric is expanding its locations further, selecting Joliet, Illinois for its new manufacturing facility in the US.
The new facility is said to “represent the largest dedicated production site for zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles in the US,” as well as being the company’s biggest footprint in the market. The new facility will give Lion Electric the capacity to meet increasing demand for ‘Made in America’ zero-emission vehicles and bring production closer to customers.
It is expected that the first vehicles off the production line will be in the second half of 2022.
“Lion’s historic investment to bring its largest production facility to Illinois represents not only a win for our communities, but a strong step forward in our work to expand clean energy alternatives and the jobs they bring to our communities,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
“The new Joliet facility will put Illinois at the forefront of a national movement to transition to zero-emission vehicle use, advancing our own goals of putting one million of these cars on the road by 2030. In Illinois, we know that a clean energy economy is about more than just vehicles – it’s about healthier communities and jobs for those who live there. We are excited to welcome Lion to the Land of Lincoln and look forward to their future success here.”
Lion Electric’s Agreement with the Government of Illinois
Over the next three years, Lion Electric will invest a minimum of US$70mn into Illinois. The new facility - totalling 900,000 square feet - is expected to create a minimum of 745 clean energy direct jobs in the next three years, and have an annual production capacity of up to 20,000 all electric buses and trucks.
Scaling electric bus production and decarbonising freight and transportation
As the US moves to electrifying its school buses, the additional production capacity at the facility will help Lion Electric to scale its electric bus production, as well as produce an increased volume of heavy-duty zero-emission trucks to help governments and operators in the US further the decarbonisation of freight and transportation fleets.
“Lion is the leader in electric school buses and has always been dedicated to the U.S. market, and our commitment to be close to our customers is one of the core values we have as a company. This significant expansion into the U.S. market will not only allow us to drastically increase our overall manufacturing capacity of electric trucks and buses but to also better serve our customers, while adding critical clean manufacturing jobs that will form the backbone of the green economy,” said Marc Bedard, CEO and Founder of Lion.
“I also want to acknowledge the crucial role that P33 and Intersect Illinois, civic groups committed to developing developing a long-term roadmap for the local tech industry, played in connecting Lion with the Chicago area’s business and civic community to help further commercial traction, as well as engagement with key workforce and supplier partners.”