Humanizing Automation in the 21st Century

By: Dan Labell, President

 Led by the common misconception that automation destroys jobs and is a leading cause of high unemployment rates, the American perception of automation and the manufacturing industry has grown increasingly pessimistic over the past few decades. While it is true that some jobs may be displaced, highly-skilled workers are certainly in high demand. Most companies investing in automation are growing, and their ability to compete in a global market depends on improving productivity. Growth creates jobs, and automation ensures that this growth is managed properly to remain competitive long-term.

It is not just the efficiency of equipment that defines the success of a project, but rather the quality of the processes and people involved in running the system. It is often easy to overlook the value of human interaction when automating your warehouse or distribution center. Take a look at how ‘humanizing automation’ will change the future of manufacturing.

Raising the bar. The New Era of the workforce.

As a direct result of the emergence of automation and new technologies in the warehouse, many manufacturing jobs now require workers to have more intimate knowledge of automated equipment.  The combination of automation, a skilled workforce and intuitive software technology becomes necessary to implement and effectively operate a highly-efficient workflow. Although automated solutions, such as automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), may bring warehouse efficiencies and improved operational performance, a new type of workforce is needed to maintain and operate these highly-advanced systems and equipment.

Integrating warehouse software and controls

For over 45 years, Westfalia has been committed to innovation and creating unparalleled warehousing solutions. Our expertise in combining software development with automated equipment controls reflects our desire for continuous improvement to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers. In order to simplify the interactions between humans and automation, Westfalia’s software development and controls teams have been working closely together to revamp the human machine interface (HMI). The monitoring of warehouse operations and streamlined error recovery processes are now easier than ever using our Savanna.NET® Warehouse Execution System. Like the conductor of an orchestra, Savanna.NET® efficiently coordinates both manual and automated aspects of warehouse operations, seamlessly communicates with the equipment and operators and delivers easy-to-use, real-time visibility and control of the entire process.

Automation has become an integral part of our manufacturing, warehousing and distribution processes, but it is important to remember the role that people have in making an automated solution successful. One of the key components of a successful system containing automation is selecting and investing in individuals that will be interacting with and maintaining the various components of these automated solutions. Westfalia’s job is to provide them with intuitive, user-friendly tools that are less confusing, and make their lives simpler and easier. Our new HMI, scheduled for release in the first half of 2017, will do just that.

Our Mission: To deliver unparalleled warehousing solutions by earning the trust of our customers, understanding their business needs and honoring the commitments we make.