Tanida Ruangsawat/Dreamstime and Moreno Soppelsa/Dreamstime
Factory Dreamstime Moreno Soppelsa 20426462

5 for Friday: The Workerless Workforce, and a Single Point of Truth (Hint: NOT Threads)

July 7, 2023
Machine Design takes a look at the past week, and a look ahead to the issues facing the design and manufacturing sector.

1. Shining the Light on the “Dark Factory”

There now are 1.6 jobs for every unemployed worker. The continued strength of the U.S. labor market creates pressures on the economy as a whole, but if you are a plant manager who can’t fill key jobs, you already know the drag this has on productivity.

The concept of “dark factories”—facilities that can run autonomously and resupply and stock—have taken hold in the last couple of years, fueled by the rapid growth in artificial intelligence and the advancements in operations software. Machine Design takes a look at this controversial topic this week. The discussion comes at a time when manufacturers who have complained for decades that they don’t have enough skilled workers to be productive may at last have a solution. It’s just not the solution anyone envisioned.

2. Dark Factory Webinar June 21

Machine Design will present a webinar on dark factories Fri., July 21 at 2 p.m. EST. Editor-in-Chief Rehana Begg will discuss the realities, myths and opportunities of dark factories with Kevin Cradduck, director of operations for Festo’s Fabco-Air division, and Jerry Perez, executive director of global accounts and manager of business development for Fanuc America Corp. To register for the webinar, click here.

3. The Role of AI in Supply Chains

Crucial to the success of dark factories is a robust supply chain. That’s been an elusive goal in recent years, but a new Machine Design article highlights the ways AI is giving sup-ply chain networks a stronger backbone.

As the article notes, “Supply chain engineers can apply AI across a wide range of processes. Predictive analytics, AI that makes predictions based on past trends, is one of the most helpful of these use cases. Organizations can use predictive models to accurately forecast demand shifts or anticipate disruptions, such as stock shortages, and adapt accordingly.

4. A Single Point of Truth

No, I’m not talking about Threads, the latest social media flavor of the month. A new article from David Isaacson, vice president, Product Marketing, ETQ, a provider of quality management software, notes that document control within a manufacturing organization—and this include accounting, procurement and sales—can drive greater efficiency and reduce mistakes.

“Efficient, automated document control can serve as the hub for all of your company’s critical information and drive all other key corporate processes, such as quality systems, training management and regulatory compliance,” Isaacson writes. ‘It can help sort and tag production, manufacturing, regulation and quality documents more easily, to immediately retrieve stored documents related to a specific topic instead of hunting through email inboxes and file trees.

5. Manufacturing by the Numbers

All of this uncertainty has weighed on the overall manufacturing outlook. The Institute for Supply Management’s monthly PMI Index fell to 46.0% in June, the seventh straight month below the 50.0% growth level for the index. This followed two-and-a-half years of solid growth, and the issue is one of confidence as much as the underlying issues above. “Demand remains weak, production is slowing due to lack of work, and suppliers have capacity. There are signs of more employment reduction actions in the near term,” said Timothy Fiore, chairman of the ISM’s Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

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