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Will Robots Rule the Supply Chain?

November 21, 2019 at 9:15 AM / by Kerwin Everson, VP Visual Productivity Solutions

Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming industry as we know it. Robots already have a long-standing history with supply chain technology, with one of the earliest industrial robots inspiring modern day Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs.) No longer a plot point in science fiction dramas, these new technologies have presented real opportunities for improvements across supply chains. While the cost of implementing robotics into the supply chain may be an easy decision for industry giants like Amazon, for smaller businesses, implementing robotics into their supply chain is still in the distant future. 

So, will robots rule the supply chain? A recent story in SupplyChain-247 seeks to answer this question.  The simple answer is yes, robots are coming, but no, they won’t rule the supply chain.

The High Cost of Robotic Technology

A quick search on the cost of robots like Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV’s), Automated Guided Carts (AGC’s) or Laser Guided Vehicles (LGV’s) reveals that the high cost robotic technology will keep the technology out of reach for many businesses. When considering the initial investment required, tasks that can or cannot be performed by robots or AGV’s/AGC’s must be considered, along with maintenance costs, and the lack of flexibility these technologies will afford you. Many companies are still depreciating other investments (warehouse management software, warehouse controls systems, and material handling equipment), and are unwilling to consider this newer technology, even with the promise of significant return on investment.

Do Robots Fit into Your Operation?

For many operations in the supply, robotic technology like AGVs are simply not suitable. Although robots are developing more and more human-like abilities, robots are still most useful completing repetitive tasks. Many tasks relating to the supply chain require a high degree of human involvement. However, robotic technology should be considered and you must determine exactly how and where they will be introduced.

Digital Display Technology Drives Results

So, what is the typical operations manager to do to drive results?  Each year, requirements for improved productivity, increased throughput, better on-time delivery, stellar safety records, and unmatched quality percentages escalate.  Achieving or excelling these key performance indicators (KPI’s) is nothing short of superhero. Meeting these goals year over year requires nimble strategy and seeking out the best tools and technology for the job.

At the recent North American E-Commerce Operations Summit (NAEOS-19) in Atlanta, Gemma Kubat, Senior Vice President of Supply Chain Engineering and Activation at Target, shared how Target has defended against the idea that robots are coming for our jobs. She described the balance between adding robotics and automation, while at the same time ensuring communication, authenticity, and engagement is always present at Target.

This is where visual solutions and digital signage can assist you. Studies show that one of the most effective ways to improve your company’s KPIs is to focus on employee experience in the long-term.  In Harvard Business Review’s study they explain, “compared with other companies, the experiential organizations had more than four times the average profit and more than two times the average revenue. They were also almost 25% smaller, which suggests higher levels of productivity and innovation.”

A key element in developing an engaging experience for employees is making them “visually” aware of what the company goals are and how their current performance compares to the needed productivity. Showing, not telling, your employees helps them perform even better and hit higher targets results.  At ImageNet, we call the strategic placement of digital signage displaying key metrics Visual Productivity SolutionsStrategic placement of productivity scoreboards showing everything from production, safety, and quality metrics will drive employees to perform at higher levels.

Visualizing Real-Time Data Drives Real Engagement

Before you venture into the expensive space of robotics, explore what simple ingenuity and employee productivity can do for your business. Real-time queries from your current software systems can be visualized to show the latest results in each department and even individual results and rankings where they are available. Your employees’ friendly competition can, in turn, drive the behavior modification you need within your operation.  Your employees become more knowledgeable and engaged in the process to improve your company’s bottom line. 

We specialize in creating more productive, efficient, and future-ready work spaces that improve your company’s bottom line. Contact one of our digital displays consultants today to explore how this proven technology will drive results in your office!

Topics: Digital Displays

Written by Kerwin Everson, VP Visual Productivity Solutions

Kerwin Everson is the Vice President of Visual Productivity Solutions for ImageNet. He is new to ImageNet but has been in the digital signage industry for many years, and was with RMG Networks for 16 years. Kerwin began his career with Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan, and has held various positions in Product Management, Product Marketing, and Sales with large corporations, such as BellSouth Telecommunications, which is now AT&T. In his current role, he primarily assists ImageNet clients and Client Account Teams with solutions to help customers solve problems and improve supply chain productivity. He works to provide Visual Productivity Solutions that assist the customer in managing their day-to-day business in a more productive and customer-friendly way. The result is real-time visibility provided on large LCD or LED scoreboards. He enjoys discussing how he has helped large clients like Eastman Chemical, GE Aviation, Carrier Corporation, Coca Cola, Lowes, GAP, Inc. and so many more.

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