According to a PWC survey, 80% of manufacturers have made improving supply chain resilience a primary goal. Digital tools are a key enabler. Most executives believe that continued shortages of critical materials and ongoing supply chain disruptions will remain the greatest uncertainties. Manufacturers are mitigating these risks through proven approaches, including building local capacity and moving away from just-in-time sourcing to create redundancy in the supply chain. Resilient manufacturers can not only keep their operations running smoothly but also thrive in challenging situations.

Man Picking Inventory

Shortened Product Life Cycles and Labor Shortages Are Evergreen Challenges

Though decades ago, consumers made nearly lifelong commitments to their products, product life cycles have shortened significantly over the last 10 years. It is estimated that approximately 50% of a company's annual revenue comes from new products. Replacing product or service lines every two years has become the norm in many industries. As a result, accurate demand planning and forecasting have evolved into a business imperative.

With increased product variety and shorter product life cycles, manufacturing has become more complex and unpredictable. This can create challenges in maintaining high levels of quality. However, technology can enable companies to manage operations quickly and effectively. To be beneficial, digital tools must provide a comprehensive view of the entire supply chain to create opportunities for growth and success.

Labor shortages are another issue the industry must address. According to a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, the U.S. manufacturing skills gap could result in 2.1 million unfilled jobs by 2030. The talent shortage isn't new. But it's getting worse and could have far-reaching consequences. Assuming they cannot grow their workforce because of these shortages, manufacturers are being forced to think about how they can improve the productivity of the talent they currently have.

Packing, Staging, and Sequencing Come With Demanding Requirements

The above issues are not the only challenges the manufacturing industry needs to address. Take the packaging process. Packaging involves operators packaging, weighing, and labeling shipments. Packaging involves repetitive, high-frequency tasks that require a great deal of dexterity and freedom of movement. Needless to say, as product variety increases, so does the potential for error.

In material staging, materials are moved from different work centers to assembly sites. For this process, manufacturers need to ensure close communication with the assembly line to prioritize routes, assure quality control, and avoid physical strain and injury for operators handling heavy, voluminous objects. This requires an obstacle-free material handling solution and streamlined reporting and communication between departments.

In sequencing, manufacturers plan the scheduling and management of production orders for enhanced efficiency and optimized production. The goal for all manufacturers is a 0% error rate. In this high-pressure environment, managing disruptions such as late or incorrect deliveries and time-sensitive work for just-in-sequence processes is simply paramount. Late and incorrect deliveries lead to consumer dissatisfaction and unnecessary cost for manufacturers.

ProGlove barcode scanner on hand

How CollaboMation Can Help

To meet these challenges and achieve higher productivity with fewer resources, the industry must focus on both the human workforce and the technology they use. Companies must look for solutions that provide workers with real-time guidance and feedback to improve accuracy and reduce errors. Harnessing the power of human-centered solutions can help manufacturers optimize speed, accuracy, and workforce management. But companies cannot stop there. Solutions must also improve worker safety and well-being.

Does that mean automation is not an option? No, it certainly does not. However, the challenges mentioned above, such as shorter product life cycles and variety, are a major barrier to full automation. Companies may be better off considering automation technologies that empower their workforce, as opposed to automating the work.

Industrial wearables are specifically designed to meet these needs. They connect human workers to the technology that surrounds them. This allows them to effortlessly complete the tasks they need to complete while receiving the guidance they need. But wearables also provide the means to collect operational data that can be used to manage transactions and orchestrate traffic on the shop floor. This makes the entire workflow more reliable and secure.

This idea of collaborative automation, or 'CollaboMation', helps to achieve a healthy balance between efficiency, quality, and safety. It involves the interaction of human workers and automated systems working together to complete processes. While automation handles repetitive and physically demanding activities, the human worker is free to perform higher-value tasks without fatigue. CollaboMation harmonizes shop floor processes by aligning human workers with technology to improve accuracy, reduce errors, and make data-driven decisions.

CollaboMation is the Future

In essence, CollaboMation helps manufacturers optimize their processes and improve productivity. Whether it's improving supply chain resilience, managing product life cycles, or addressing labor shortages, this advanced approach of human-machine collaboration is a great way to overcome current and future obstacles. By leveraging technology, streamlining communication, and prioritizing worker safety, manufacturers can ensure that they remain competitive and profitable in today's fast-paced business environment.

Our Partnership with ProGlove

ProGlove is one of our Technology Partners. For more information about using ProGlove wearables with Tulip to support your bin picking applications, check out our partner page.

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