Teaming Man & Machine for a more resilient supply chain
Let’s talk about light-duty, semi-skilled labor for a minute. Today these jobs are mission critical for supply chains to function. Fully-burdened at $40K a year, the employee works 7.5 hours a day. The employer has significant onboarding costs. Productivity fluctuates throughout the day. When hiring, the candidate has to pass a drug test, speak English, be able to read, and pass a background check.
There are plenty of dedicated hard workers, but any employer tasked with filling these positions, knows the truth. Finding quality is tough, there are thousands of unfilled supply jobs, even in today’s pandemic world with masses looking for work. Make no mistake, ambitious and talented people taking a light-duty semi-skilled job are doing so while looking for other work. The workforce revolving door keeps spinning, and employers are faced with rising costs to maintain productivity while promoting stability in the employee ranks.
We all know the painful stories of employers struggling to fill, then train, then retain an employee. One employer I know had to seriously weigh if the murder conviction was premeditated, or accidental in order to make their hiring decision!
There is a solution. It involves enabling current employees to be more efficient by expanding automation in ways not possible until now. Today robots that sense their environment with an AI “brain” to extract inference from their perception are capable of duplicating the real-time flexible decision making of semi-skilled labor. They do so retaining the prized qualities that put labor on the supply chain in the first place, but with none of the disappointing troubles. We call it, robot loyalty – the ultimate company man/woman.
Couple this “smart” robot with a human supervisor, and you now have one person doing work that before required many.
Let me make a comment about the idea that robots are taking jobs. The fact is, yes labor will be offset by increasing automation. But the reason my post started with the lousy state of these jobs, is because they are undesirable. By turning them over to the robot, the employee who remains now has an interesting job, and together they drive lower costs and increased efficiency. The skills they need to manage the machine will lead to a pay raise because the employer want to retain their advanced skills.
So what happens to the offset labor? Here’s the truth: We have an opportunity in this country to finally begin bringing manufacturing back to the United States, closer to the consumer. The economics that drove it overseas, have run headlong into the fragility of the long supply chain. If we actually made most of what we need right here at home, our ability to support our customers would have made our current circumstance more timely and manageable. Apple’s chain was broken within days of the outbreak. Imagine if they made their phones here. I, for one, would love to buy a television stamped “Made in America”. We invented the technology and not a single TV is made here anymore. It’s time to change that. And robots are the way.
At Universal we’ve been selling the “brains” for robots (or any actuated machine) for over ten years. Our product is used to simulate the semi-skilled work by giving the robot the ability to handle high variability at high speed. And I can tell you with absolute certainty, that making America great again, means we need to shorten our supply chains, and bring the production home. And the way we do it is by driving worker efficiency through the roof.
Okay, so with all the uncertainty in the market, outlaying capital for equipment right now is simply not possible. I understand that. But, I can tell you Amazon is gaining market share because they have been building a harden supply chain for years ,that is now showing its strength. Waiting will erode your market share even more. We can help you, and here’s how.
Rather than fund the purchase as a capital expense, with significant cash outlays before realizing the value, Universal offers off-book leasing. This technique allows you to order the solution and not pay a dime before implementation. Then you pay monthly, as an operating expense, out of the labor savings. You are saving money the day the system goes live, hardening your supply chain, and driving up worker efficiency.
Call or email us to discuss your automation/labor saving needs. Together, we will win the day!Read More >>
We’ve recently discussed how the Microsoft Kinect can be used in robotic mobile manipulation. See above a video showing what is, to our knowledge, the first commercial integration of the Kinect with an industrial robot. Signal from standard webcams is also used. A software from Universal Robotics crunches the data to obtain a 3D representation of the scene. The application shown is the palletizing of randomly-placed boxes with Motoman robots.
Seeing consumer priced sensor entering into the industrial arena is very exciting, as long as the integration can prove to be robust enough.Read More >>