Automation: Day 2 at APICS. It’s all about people

Technology is great. But you’ll never achieve greatness if you don’t consider the human element.

By ·

I don’t know about you, but I love equipment and technology. I’ve been visiting manufacturing plants and distribution centers for nearly 50 years – since my Dad took me on sales trips as a kid. I still get a little giddy watching cartons fly down a conveyor and sorter, AS/RS cranes move pallets or cartons or a pick-to-light or voice-directed picking solution. Some of my favorite conversations are with supply chain software companies who talk about their vision for directing warehousing and distribution operations.

They all make it sound so easy – so easy, in fact, its easy to forget that it still takes people to make it all happen. Maybe fewer people, thanks to automation, but people all the same. 

That was driven home yesterday as I listened to a presentation on multi-enterprise collaboration and visibility by Intel at Day 2 of APICS annual conference in Orlando.

Two executives from Intel described how Intel rolled out a pilot program for collaboration and supply chain visibility with its outsourced manufacturing partners – a program that will begin going live the end of this year. In many respects, the initiative has been in development since 2009. The backbone is a cloud-based software platform that allows Intel and its manufacturing partners to plug in, share demand forecasts and plans, inventory levels and order information.

So, you would have thought the center-piece of the presentation would have been the software sizzle. Instead, the real steak in the presentation was Intel’s effort to educate its employees and then its suppliers. For instance, the initiative got started in 2009 with an internal APICS certified supply chain professional certification program (CSCP). Classes taught by Intel instructors were offered across 14 sites worldwide and it was offered across functional areas of Intel’s enterprise and not just individuals traditionally associated with manufacturing, logistics and distribution. There has also been an intensive effort to educate suppliers – a crucial element to developing trust between Intel and its network of contract manufacturers.

There was another intensive effort to develop the business case – the ROI – in other words, to educate senior executives on the potential of the program.

In fact, the Intel presenters spent as much time talking about the importance of education to launching this program as they did about what the software does.

Just as important were the questions asked during the Q&A. While some were about the technologies involved in making this work, a majority were about education or shared stories about how in their organizations, the reluctance of employees to give up their old ways of doing things and buy into the new way was a hurdle to their own success.

Automation and technology is the heart and soul of our business. But lets not forget that we’ll never realize success with new processes and systems if people aren’t part of the solution. 


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Finding Agility in your Workforce: Are you prepared to meet the next market shift?
Logistics companies need every advantage available to them to be a vendor of choice and remain competitive
Download Today!
From the April 2017 Issue
Our “33rd Annual Salary Survey” reflects more diversity entering the logistics management market, and in marked contrast to 2016, paints a rosier outlook for career placement and advancement.
Is Your Tractor Trailer Yard a Black Hole?
Information Management: Wearables come in for a refit
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Maximize Your LTL Driver Adherence with Real-time Feedback
This webinar shows how companies are using real-time performance data to optimize the scheduling of their city fleets, as well as the routing of their standard, accelerated and time-critical shipments.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
2017 Salary Survey: Fresh Voices Express Optimism
Our “33rd Annual Salary Survey” reflects more diversity entering the logistics management...
LM Exclusive: Major Modes Join E-commerce Mix
While last mile carriers receive much of the attention, the traditional modal heavyweights are in...

ASEAN Logistics: Building Collectively
While most of the world withdraws inward, Southeast Asia is practicing effective cooperation between...
2017 Rate Outlook: Will the pieces fall into place?
Trade and transport analysts see a turnaround in last year’s negative market outlook, but as...