The Essence of Digital Industry: Real-Time, Agile and Collaborative
Human-Machine Collaboration

Increasing efficiency is a key priority in manufacturing yet inefficiency is pervasive in the industry. Without the right mix of technology, architecture and people, even a top priority can fall by the wayside.  

I witnessed that as an intern during undergraduate study in electrical engineering. Recruited by an auto component manufacturer, I vividly remember the first day at work – the smell of coolant, the deafening roar of metal stamping machines and chaos all around. My job was to assist line supervisor –  monitor cycle time, inspect component quality and improve production flows. With the production line cranking out thousands of components, I had to take random samples, check quality using manual gauges and perform tasks required to hit the daily production target. As dusk approached, the supervisor prepared post production reports, entering data in excel and shared a key insight –  we could easily increase productivity by 20% if the right material was available at the right place and right time. 

Our discussion was interrupted by the quality inspector who informed us that he had rejected a quarter of the production run! A worker had accidently replaced an approved gauge with an uncalibrated instrument. The out-of-tolerance gauge produced inaccurate readings and initiated the operator to change the settings in machine and we ended up with non-conforming products. I wrapped my first day in the factory missing both production and quality targets. However, the incident opened my eyes to the seven mudas in manufacturing, inventory management and lean thinking.

Fast-forward 20 years and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), a score to measure efficiency of production process, is still far from ideal for most manufacturing companies. An OEE score of 85% is considered world-class in discreet manufacturing but typical score ranges between 45%-60%. 

Based on my recent factory tours in Asia, Europe and Americas, I have seen that a majority of manufacturers still cannot get real-time production data. A few collect the data but do not act on it, lacking uniform communication standards and analytics capabilities. Maintenance is reactive and machine down-time a big bottleneck, a significant reason for poor OEE. Can manufacturing benefit from real-time data including data from IoT, legacy systems and people? Is it possible to analyze situations on-the-fly, take action to meet the dynamic conditions on the factory floor or supplier network and become more agile? 

Last month, Tesla, the electric car company from Palo Alto, CA missed the quarterly production targets for the highly-anticipated Model 3 sedan. CEO Elon Musk made an honest and profound statement regarding automation: “Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.”

While AI and fully autonomous systems have been taking billions of dollars in VC funding, and promise to bring innovative applications, the challenge for mission critical systems remains unsolved. Is AI mature enough to manage mission critical applications?  Who should be in charge, Algorithms or human experience and judgement? Many experts believe that human-machine collaboration is the correct approach and people and machines should each do what they are good at. Repetitive, high precision and multiple simultaneous tasks are for robots while relying on intuition, experience and the judgement of people for decision making and situations that deal with ambiguity.

This motivation drove me to join VANTIQ, a startup that brings transformative real-time, event driven applications for the enterprises. Industries such as Manufacturing, Logistics, Fleet Management and more will benefit from Event-Driven Architecture (EDA, Gartner’s report) to eliminate waste, speed up innovation and improve efficiencies. The key requirement is a real-time collaboration system (RCS) that is contextual, dynamic and intelligent. VANTIQ provides the platform for developing and operating Mission-Critical, Real-time Applications driven by data streams from IoT, legacy systems and people. Our mission is to accelerate digital transformation with innovative technologies to maximize the effectiveness of humans. 

Perhaps my internship experience would have been different if a production monitoring application capable of ingesting streaming data would have triggered alarm and prompted operator to take corrective action. Alas, the technology didn’t exist back then!

At VANTIQ, we take pride in making the complex simple! We would love to collaborate and resolve your challenges.

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