Manufacturing speakers love to point out that robotics have been a growing industry trend for over 65 years. As you might imagine, they’re also becoming increasingly ubiquitous today. Were you to travel the world in search of these innovations, and the companies behind them, what you’d find is that it’s more and more common to encounter factories whose assembly and production lines are manned by robot assemblers. Or, for that matter, stumble across storage buildings and distribution shops whose sole occupants and workers are hordes of automated drones. Likewise, if you work in the warehousing and shipping spaces, it’s an ill-kept industry secret: In many ways, it’s only a matter of time before we start to see a slew of distribution warehouses that are swarming with fleets of self-guided vehicles. (And, for that matter, where goods are completely picked and packed by legions of self-aware android helpers.)
On the bright side, as manufacturing speakers also like to note, while these futuristic drones and robots – many models of which will be both self-learning and capable of adapting to new environments – will only become more intelligent and able with each passing year, it pays to remember. High-tech solutions such as these innovations tend to only be as clever and capable as the data that they are being fed – and, for that matter, the overall scope and range of information that they are able to share with or digest from other devices. That means you’ve got to be more forward-thinking and deliberate with regard to how you plan for and build systems around them, and look to integrate them into your overall operations.
Ironically, you don’t have to be manufacturing speaker to realize, though: Many organizations in the field still struggle to categorize, contextualize, and sort this information into anything resembling actionable data. As a direct consequence of these hurdles, what happens is that many useful insights often sit underutilized in disconnected silos or systems while information piles up at a pace too rapid to ingest. Moreover – and more to the point – key business indicators, metrics, and intelligence that both organizations (and the robots which power them) could be applying goes unrecognized. This lack of visibility can hinder ongoing efforts to innovate, automate, and adapt to changing market conditions not only in an individual factory, warehouse, or site, but also across the entire enterprise. To avoid this pitfall, don’t just think in terms of which new robotics and automation technologies that you choose to adopt: Also think about how you can integrate these solutions across the entire enterprise, and how you might enable them to communicate with and cross-reference other sources of information and data sets. The more holistic an approach you take to leveraging robotics and automation, the more successful you’ll be.