From the editor: The people behind the machines
By Alyssa Dalton
Jun. 27, 2016 – I consider the manufacturing industry to be a very human business. That may sound strange at a time when big data analytics, the Cloud, and other abstract concepts are all the rage. However if you strip away the technologies, products, buzzwords, silos and sectors, the general purpose of the global manufacturing workforce can be reduced into one simple statement: a company makes and/or provides a solution to satisfy the needs of a dedicated population. Every machine builder, component manufacturer, contractor, consultant, system integrator and end-user, regardless of sector, is seeking to create or assemble a product that will “give the people what they want.”
Humans are the backbone of this business, and Clement D’Souza is just one of our many, many key personnel.
In April, D’Souza was featured in the What Makes a Honda is Who Makes a Honda video series, which spotlights the careers and individuals within Honda. A mechanical engineer and 26-year company veteran, D’Souza led the creation of the new Performance Manufacturing Center in Ohio, the exclusive global production facility for the 2017 Acura NSX supercar. Over the course of the four-minute video, we learn about D’Souza’s progression at Honda, as well as his childhood in India and aspirations of becoming an aerospace engineer. We find out he is a skilled field hockey player who recently competed on the U.S. team in the 2016 FIH Masters World Cup, and also coaches The Ohio State University’s club field hockey team.
Honda is certainly not the first manufacturer to profile its employees in this manner — some businesses do this regularly — but it’s crucial we don’t forget the value of doing so. It’s these faces and stories that remind us of humble beginnings, motivate us to think beyond what’s possible, and inspire next generations to venture into this field. Without these individuals, we wouldn’t have this industry altogether, and we cannot afford to hide these successes.
But as the development of robotics and artificial intelligence in automation grows, so does the fear of robots wiping out millions of jobs. This, however, shouldn’t diminish the power of humans in manufacturing.
A Power Automation Systems blog post provides this rationale: “It’s true that robots provide a level of accuracy, consistency and endurance unmatched by humans but … machines can’t think or act like humans, and they’re far from being able to do so. The human mind is the most complex piece of machinery there is, capable of making split-second decisions. That leaves greater opportunities for workers to stretch their creative and problem-solving muscles… The onus is on people to develop critical thinking skills now that will ensure them a place alongside burgeoning technology.”
Technology may be the way of the future, but human passion is still the core of manufacturing. This will not go away anytime soon, unless we let it.
This column was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.