As mentioned in our earlier article after attending the recent Scotland Manufacturing & Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition, one of the key focus areas for the whole day was around ‘People’. One area that was of particular interest to us as ERP consultants was what the thoughts and opinions were from the manufacturers in the room around the hot topic of emerging technologies such as AI, automation and advanced robotics removing the need for people.
In the modern world we are getting used to constantly being introduced to new technologies, trends, and takes on the world. In the last 15 years we have seen the meteoric rise of services like Netflix, Amazon [and its ever expanding areas of expertise], smart phones, Teams / Zoom meetings. And with all of that, a more speculative look as to how our future will look since it’s harder to judge given the sheer pace of change. It’s difficult to know exactly what the impact on jobs and people and roles within manufacturing will be – but one thing is for sure – there is going to be big change ahead for the sector.
In a business sense, and particularly within manufacturing, that has often involved a lot of consideration for how humans may be replaced through the application of robotics on assembly lines. Now increasingly machine learning & artificial intelligence is also making inroads to manufacturing and supply chain and even in other more creative environments like marketing or providing challenges for lecturers in academia.
Some people have begun to wonder if futures as seen in films like the Terminator, Back to the Future or even Wall-E might actually be more of a reality than we ever thought possible. This might seem far fetched and certainly there seems to be a bit of sensationalism and scare mongering going on over this past year in particular. Although the reality of the impact of these latest technologies cannot be underestimated. Those sectors and businesses that stuck their head in the sand at previous technology revolutions such as with ecommerce and didn’t move with the time are in many cases no longer around. So it’s imperative that manufacturers take these technologies seriously and begin to understand how they can use them to improve their operations.
At the conference, there was a key premise from most of the manufacturers about the importance of continuing to focus on people and enabling them to perform better through an improved understanding of what their business aims to do, how they do it and, and how they support people to make it happen. This theme was echoed with some of the content of the day focusing on aspects such as Talent & Continuous Improvement, Productivity & Cultural Impact, and multiple panels focusing on both broadening the diversity of hiring and how to adjust businesses and ways of working to increase retention of staff.
The fact is, people still drive manufacturing. These emerging technologies still need people to understand and operate them and know how to apply them to their manufacturing businesses. Roles, skills and ways of working will change though and so manufacturers must consider the people and change management impact of these technologies. At Optimum PPS as ERP consultants, we believe that people and the change management element are key when introducing any new technologies, systems or processes to ensure the long-term adoption, success of the projects and delivery of tangible, sustainable business improvements. These emerging technologies of AI and machine learning are no different.