There are advantages that humans and machines each posses, but when it comes to supply chain management, it is all about maximizing efficiency in the arena of both.
The relationship between humans and machines in the business world go far back into history. From Henry Ford’s assembly line system to the supercomputers of today, people are continuously making efforts to maximize the efficiency of their processes along the supply chain. Unfortunately a completely functioning answer is not an easy one. While a machine may be able to complete processes more quickly and precisely, once the task has been able to be programmed, humans have the unique ability to think and reason through some problems that automated machines in the business world may not be capable.
The eye, the hand and the machine
At the most basic explanation, functionality comes down to hand eye coordination, according to a blog piece by C.G. Masi published in Packaging Digest. He explains that the kinesthetic sense of a human can make adjustments that a robotic process simply could not. He illustrates this idea through the process of cleaning an airbrush, which requires enough force on one level to be able to remove the necessary blockage, but a delicacy so as not to damage the cleaning tool or the brush itself.
It is this balance that engineers and developers are looking to implement into current automated machines that could significantly maximize efficiency within the supply chain management. By being able to achieve this balance in the packaging of say a large and intricate engine or network hub, persons would be able to apply their individual skills to more intricate processes that require their hand-eye coordination skills to be applied in other ways, while machines perform more basic functions.
Pharmacy maximizes efficiency via accuracy with machine
These kinds of processes have been able to maximizing efficiency through a number of packaging operations. One example can be found in the city of Humboldt in Saskatchewan, Canada. One pharmacy that deals a lot with patients in a retirement home has been able to dramatically improve its packaging of medications for its various customers, according to the Humboldt Journal. Before the installation of the packaging machine, employees manually packed 85 different residents’ medications – a daunting and time-consuming task. However now with the assistance of a packaging machine, patients can have a week’s worth of medications packaged and separated by type and time of day, thus maximizing efficiency for both the patient and healthcare providers.
These solutions in packaging automation can be applied across different industries, not just pharmaceuticals. One machine used in a more industrial context can assemble cases at an extremely fast speed, up to 35 cases per minute. Additionally, the case erector consumes minimal amounts of space, making its impact on processes strong but its presence understated.
By implementing improvements such as these into the basic assembly and packaging of products, the unique advantages that humans have over machines can be better applied to different parts of the supply chain to better maximize efficiency. In the case of the Humboldt pharmacy, for example, the pharmacists were able to devote added time to patient consultations. In more industrial processes, the packaging automation of stretch wrapping or machine taping can allow companies to maximize efficiency through reallocation of labor to processes such as production and quality control.