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Report Outlines Difficulty in Boosting Automation in Manufacturing

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

Manufacturers are looking to boost use of automation, according to a report by Ericsson released today.

“Manufacturing is in a constant race for productivity and efficiency,” according to the report’s summary “One way to bring down costs, while maintaining a high level of quality, is fully automated production.”

However, the report cautioned that may be easier said than done.

“Automation, in many cases, is neither easy nor profitable due to the complex nature of tasks, the need to transfer knowledge that is difficult to express or extract, and the current insufficient capabilities of automation,” Ericsson said.

“Production employees say a large part of the tasks are still dull, dirty and even dangerous,” according to the summary.

The report was based on data collected from “22 markets, through 8,657 online interviews held with respondents aged 18 and older“ in various countries, according to the report.

Ericsson said these were among the main findings in its report:

  • “Tough global competition means that almost eight in 10 manufacturers are cutting costs.”
  • With “dull, dirty and dangerous work, production employees still say that 71 percent of the work is at least one of these.”
  • “In the next five years, seven in 10 manufacturers expect to have deployed” advanced manufacturing technology.
  • “More than half of the production employees still believe more people will be needed in similar roles by 2030, and only one in five think fewer people will be needed. Close to nine in ten decision makers expect” artificial intelligence “to be used in their production processes within the next 10 years.” 

The report also said the following: 

--“As facilities become digitalized, making sense of and using the large amounts of data generated by machines and processes is becoming increasingly challenging.” 

--“Despite the lower labor costs, offshoring also introduces many challenges such as transport delays, quality problems, miscommunication, sensitivity to trade conflict and negative environmental effects based on increased transport.” 

--"When it comes to wear and tear injuries, as many as 80 percent of the surveyed production employees have experienced them at their workplace. In fact, in 2020, a production employee got injured every seven seconds in America alone.”

--"With the digitalization and automation that is happening in factories, the role of the production employee is also shifting to include more oversight and troubleshooting, rather than tasks like tendering and assembling.” 

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