If I ran a manufacturing business, I would evaluate my company’s market competitiveness. Over the past several years, many companies have sourced products from countries with low cost labor, and they experienced the downside of that low cost labor – lack of intellectual property protection, slow response to engineering changes, high inventory levels or shortages, lack of responsiveness to market needs, communication issues, quality issues and labor savings that always seemed to be less than what was expected.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the years trying to figure out why robotics, to some degree, have a negative image. There doesn’t appear to be the same outcry about copy machines, CNC (computer numerical control) machines, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software, 3D printers or hundreds of other hardware and software “advances” that have improved productivity.
I remember in the 90’s when companies implemented personal computers. While the change was difficult, it was embraced. Companies offered classes on how to use word processors, spreadsheets and email programs. Many companies had dedicated personnel to provide training and assist with problems. Can change, similar to the adoption of personal computers, truly be embraced and encouraged? Can the feeling of discontent and fear be overcome by excitement and new possibilities? Don’t get me wrong, I certainly understand and respect the viewpoint of some, that if the workplace changes too much, they wonder if they’ll have the skills for the new workplace. But if you’re willing to take the training and grow with the technology, you become a part of the change rather than an idle bystander.
Today, we can all recognize that computers provide significant value and improve productivity. Looking back, could one person or a group of people have stopped the implementation of computers? They may have delayed the implementation, but the change was inevitable. In society and across the world, change is the only constant. We are always looking for ways to improve upon the past and strive for a better future. At no time in history is this more true than today as we compete in a global economy.
Robotics, like computing, is a productivity tool whose time has come. Industrial robots and automation solutions are more capable than ever with robot vision technology, sensing capabilities, gripping tools and robot software that are now available.
The question is, are you ready to change in 2014? Are you willing to invest in this technology? On a personal level, are you willing to embrace this technology? Are you committed to learning how to use it? Are you ready to grow into your next job?
Change is inevitable. How you respond to it is up to you. Let’s work together to make 2014 the year of change, opportunity and to be more competitive.
P.S. I installed Windows® 8.1 on Sunday. It's not as bad as everyone says ;-)
By Tom Sipple, Engineering Manager