We manufacturers know what a robot is and is not - and for all intents and purposes it’s not Data from Star Trek, Luke Skywalker’s sidekick, nor is it an angry AI bot from the new Netflix hit Mitchell’s versus The Machines (Hot Tip: If you have kids this is a must watch family fun film - You’re welcome.)
Are Robots the Answer?
During this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our customers, both new and longstanding, have been rethinking how they deploy their employees, and how they utilize process automation to manufacture their products. Mask wearing and social distancing have become the norm for the foreseeable future and guaranteeing the safety of people in their workplace has become a primary concern. With these new pressures as catalysts, our clients are considering automation as a means to space out people on the production floor, with the added benefit of substituting machinery to do mundane tasks so employees can be moved into new roles where they can add more creative value.
On several previous occasions I have been given the opportunity to blog about one of my passions; capital project execution and the application of a Phases and Gates methodology. As we have previously articulated, Phases and Gates is a shared approach to achieving a business goal, usually involving installing or upgrading manufacturing assets, shared between an end user (the owner) and the chosen solution provider. The beauty of working under a method where the project objectives, technical exploration, definition, and then execution are scripted, and the individual steps with respective deliverables or work product are described as part of the contractual agreement, is that the work process framework promotes clear communication, crisp expectations, and a means to collaborate and manage project risk.
Photo by iMattSmart on Unsplash" width="590" style="width: 590px; float: left; margin: 0px 10px 10px 0px;">It has been an interesting several months of attempting to service our clients under the pandemic related constraints. At Optimation, we have observed many of our clients who have, out of necessity, had to scale back their operations, including things like pursuing needed capital improvements to their manufacturing equipment. One market segment that we participate in, that we have observed struggling with factory shutdowns and limited personnel access is the industry that relies on roll to roll manufacturing methods and machinery to produce their products.
It’s an Election Year, why not Vote for an Engineer?
If you are like me, every four years during the presidential election cycle, I get frustrated with our political system. As candidates for the vaunted office of the Presidency take to the campaign trail and seek to garner the votes of their party’s delegates, I grind my teeth at the rhetoric and unrealistic promises that are offered up as enticement to voters. It makes me question if these candidates even understand their charter, should they be elected, within the legal if not moral guidelines of our democracy.
As we embrace the needed isolation that is aimed at slowing the progression of the coronavirus, many of us are frustrated by the interruption to our business goals and productivity. Our imposed idleness, with the health and well being of our friends and neighbors being our top priority, makes us question what the best use of our time and energy might be in the midst of this storm.
Here at Optimation, being a business that anchors its livelihood in the manufacturing and high technology segment, we recognize and celebrate Engineer’s Week every year. We are a group of creative problem solvers, that use our engineering and technical training and experiences to help solve our client’s challenges and problems. So, during Engineer’s Week, we reflect back on how we got here, and what some of the life changing situations and decisions were that have contributed to our shared career paths.
As a bit of a retrospective, and anticipating that we might have some fun with the topic, I sent out a conversation starter to my engineering mates that asked, “When you were a child, what events did you experience that might have indicated to your parents that you had engineering/technical tendencies?” Today we want to offer these anecdotes to entertain, as well as hold them up as examples that today’s parents might look at and realize that their progeny have also exhibited similar traits. Maybe your Jimmy or Susie has acted in a way that, as you compare their recent hi-jinx to these stories, enlightens your understanding to their potential future as mechanical, chemical, or electrical engineers.
So, here are some of our formative stories, for your consideration and enjoyment:
The Challenging Question We Often Face.
Recently, I was challenged by a friend, who is not associated with our business, if I could explain why one of our prospective clients why they would hire an outside design/build engineering firm.The client has the capability to produce products in their manufacturing plants, and would thus have a fair amount of in house capability. This is a very provocative question, and one which we are regularly challenged to answer. As I reflected on the varied reasons that support our business, I decided that rather than give my usual elevator speech, I would have a bit of fun with my answer. So, here are what we observe are the top ten reasons (in ascending order) why our clients do routinely ask us to participate, as viewed from their perspective:
Not only did we celebrate a new year when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2020, but also a new decade (depending on who you ask)! What is it about a new year that causes us to take stock and vow to make improvements? As I stepped on the scale this morning, I noted that one of my high ranking resolutions is in serious jeopardy. But then, I was able to rationalize my lackluster progress by remembering that all the holiday cookies, candy, caramel coated popcorn, etc. have been consumed, and the plan to lose a few pounds should self-correct (skeptics need not reply).
Have you ever experienced a problem with your automobile, where you hear an unusual noise, or feel a different dynamic (a hesitation or a loss of power), and wonder if your trusty transport is going to leave you stranded at the side of the road?
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