Automation is only as effective as the people who design it

If this year has taught us anything, it is to value people. That might sound ironic, coming from someone specialising in integrating robots into the workspace, but it’s true.

While technology and our ability to adapt and exploit it to its full potential are as important as they have ever been, people remain the heart and soul of any successful strategic plan. It is people who have the ability to look beyond the here and now and challenge each other.

My own experience of leading a technology company through this period of intense uncertainty has only reinforced my reliance on the team’s skills and experience, and my own business instincts and the importance of continuing to develop these.

2020 has brought record growth for CNC Robotics. We’ve seen interest in our solutions grow at the same time as our customer base has diversified into new industries, as more people seek to harness technology such as robotics to help them work smarter, a key narrative of Made Smarter.

As well as being the MD of a tech company, I am passionate about UK manufacturing and have been kept busy sitting on the industrial advisory board for the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge Fund, as one of the SME representatives – helping to shape the strategic direction of this national £300M programme and provide industry input to help ensure it is a wise investment for both the manufacturing and technical solution development communities in the UK.

The UK still lags behind in the adoption of robotics, relative to some of our rivals. It will be people who close this gap, not robots. We’ve heard an awful lot about the promise of robotics, AI, and automation of all kinds to solve all of our problems. But automation is only as effective as the people who design it.

System integrators such as CNC Robotics play an important role in supporting people to understand what is possible and develop a clear plan to help manufacturers adopt the latest advancements in robotics and industrial automation on the shop floor.

And while every customer of ours is unique, they share commonalities, from the desire to grow to deal with the challenges of a changing workforce, tackle unsafe working conditions, boost productivity, or address the increasing pressures of a competitive marketplace. With access to shop floors restricted, our role as integrators and strategic thinkers has never been more important.

The term ‘system integration’ certainly isn’t a new concept. Integration starts with scoping out potential projects, analysing requirements, and then defining system specifications. At the end of this process tree sits the robotic system and the configuration of its parts. The system is rarely a single machine – like a business, it requires different functions carrying out different specialisms in service of the whole and with a firm eye on maintenance.

A good integrator will take the time to assess your needs and recommend a solution that speaks to your own unique situation. There is a wealth of SMEs out there working tirelessly behind the scenes to support manufacturers across a range of industries, sectors, and sizes, from one-person companies to large multinationals, whether providing turnkey (off the shelf) or bespoke solutions.

Choosing the right system integrator can be difficult, but as we at CNC Robotics say, ‘people work with people’. Find an expert with who you can connect, and if you do not know where to start, there is lots of support out there to help companies navigate what’s on offer.

2020 kept many of us apart. A determination to push the UK forward and build back better has the potential to begin the process of bringing us together again. We all play a key role in challenging each other and championing the manufacturing sector, and whether we are successful or not will, in the end, come down to the people leading the process and the values they hold.

– Philippa Glover

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