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The human-machine collaboration in the manufacturing supply chain

We often see the trending words such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics, smart manufacturing, and digital transformation. The horizon is in the future, especially when approaching those trending words from a supply chain perspective with the lenses of a manufacturing company. But still, there is an era between today and the future. What should we do before all those trending words are in reality? 

In the past, the manufacturing supply chains have been run by people and managed by people. Persons have made big decisions influencing the full process of producing the end products. Today we have moved closer to an automated world where software is backing the process. Currently, most manufacturing companies are developing their digital transformation projects, planning the next steps, and figuring out how the business environment will settle out after exceptional circumstances because of COVID.

First wave with automation

Automation has come to help and ease the pain of people. Companies are developing software to replace people in the basic tasks and taking the leap from human errors to the next level where software could do repetitive tasks without any errors. In this picture, we are quite far away from giving control to the software-driven processes. Artificial intelligence deciding on a complicated question. Sounds simple but it’s not. There are still plenty of steps we need to live through before giving control to machines.

Living with perfect data, still a dream or reality before 2040?

The situation where we could permit a machine to decide on a complicated question is when our data flows are perfect. This is probably a key driver for some of the digital transformation projects, to find all data pieces and verify that the data is real and accurate. Even machines don’t want to take responsibility for a decision when we know that the data is not correct. 

The manufacturing supply chain is different, or is it?

Different or not, I believe that the manufacturing supply chains are more complex and networked than an average industry supply chain. Manufacturing supply chains always face complexity caused by specific customer needs which can occur during the order-delivery process. Simple and repeating processes can be automated today already but decisions related to end-customers satisfaction needs still influence and decision-making of the supply chain professionals’. The best-performing companies have the capabilities to optimize this human-machine collaboration in the most effective way.

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