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Automation to Empower Workers, Not Take Jobs

Felipe Rivera - Mitsubishi Electric Automation
Managing Director


Fernando Mares By Fernando Mares | Journalist & Industry Analyst - Thu, 08/17/2023 - 09:34

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Q: How will the emergence of technologies like AI and machine learning impact your services?  
A: Mitsubishi Electric Automation prioritizes technology and product quality, which is evident in our products' high information processing capacity across all levels of the automation pyramid and an impressively low failure rate (1*10^-36) compared to the industry’s average. This leads to much longer life cycles for our products. 

Moreover, we are innovating with digital transformation technology to offer blockchain at the OT level and to provide services or technology related to machine learning and artificial intelligence at the OT level. 

On site, it is essential to have a secure way of sharing information with different global experts to ensure that processes and production lines are in the most efficient, optimal and effective condition. AI presents a significant opportunity, enabling complex algorithm processing on site for enhanced process optimization and sustainability. 

Q: How long can your maintenance programs extend your products’ lifespan? 
A: Our maintenance programs are designed to ensure a significant extension to our products' lifespan. While the magnitude of the extension can vary depending on the specific product, industry and usage, our goal is to guarantee a life cycle of more than 10 years for our customers' assets. This includes manufacturing lines and robotic cells, which align with the typical cycle considered by investors in a manufacturing process. By achieving a lifespan of more than 10 years, our maintenance programs contribute to a longer and more sustainable utilization of our products. This not only provides a considerable return on investment for our customers but also helps to reduce the environmental impact of their processes.

Q: Why did the company decide to shift from being a service provider to starting commercial operations in Mexico and Spanish-speaking America?  
A: Mitsubishi Electric has evolved over its more than 100 years of existence. We started as a company specializing in electrical components and, as the world progressed, we found new ways to serve the industry and became a company focused on automation processes. Subsequently, we further evolved into a company specializing in management systems and factory automation.

Today, we are in the middle of a digital transformation, incorporating all the necessary components to undergo this process. We have strategically expanded our presence, aiming to provide the best coverage in various regions. The Spanish-speaking American market is particularly attractive to Mitsubishi Electric, due to its growth potential and commitment to environmental initiatives. We anticipate growth in this region will be different from what we have seen in previous global markets, as it aligns with our vision of sustainable and environmentally conscious development.

Q: Some sectors of the population are afraid that automation could take human jobs. What is Mitsubishi Electric’s perspective in this regard? 
A: In 29 years, I have never seen an automation project that led to human replacement. I have seen the exact opposite. I have witnessed a process of empowerment and transformation. We have shifted from extremely manual and risky processes for humans to collaborative processes with automation. People now program robots to handle dangerous tasks, ensuring safety and efficiency. 

We are reaching the physical limits of resource exploitation and facing the challenge of providing basic needs like clean water, electricity and other essential services to a third of the global population. Given these challenges, the industry must meet growing market demands, which are estimated to double in the next 10 years, while reducing our carbon footprint by half. Technology plays a crucial role in this transformation, enabling collaboration and empowerment of the workforce to transition into more sustainable and efficient processes. We are at a pivotal moment in human history, where integrated human intelligence and advanced technology can drive the transformation required to tackle the enormous challenges ahead and revolutionize industrial processes, manufacturing, transportation and integration like never before.

Q: Since most companies in Mexico are SMEs, how does Mitsubishi Electric enhance this sector’s capabilities?  
A: The answer can be found in Mitsubishi Electric’s Japanese background. Mitsubishi Electric is a Japanese company that emerged under precarious industrial conditions. Over 50 years ago, Japan did not have the industrial capabilities it has today. These were born from the concept of cell manufacturing. For this reason, Japan could be considered a pioneer in modern manufacturing. The country developed technology to make production cells highly efficient. Today, modern manufacturing lines integrate multiple technological or productive cells. Our focus is on these foundations and in achieving hyper-efficient productive cells. 

Many SMEs adopt these manufacturing cells, not only big corporations. Our challenge is to work with these smaller companies to ensure that the design, construction and implementation of their manufacturing cells is self-sustainable and self-sufficient. We have many examples in Mexico, where we collaborate with equipment manufacturers, helping them become part of the production chains of large factories. We work with them using design software, robotics technology, inverters and regenerative servo motors to ensure high energy efficiency and productivity in these process cells. 

Q: How is Mitsubishi Electric preparing for the relocation of the global supply chain?
A: Mitsubishi Electric is making significant investments in its automation division. We are investing in human capital and the development of our personnel. Additionally, we are investing in Mexican universities, providing annual donations of technological kits and robotic cells for their laboratories. We believe that human value is our company’s greatest asset.

Mitsubishi Electric's investment in universities is crucial for the development of talent. We see this as a significant commitment to prepare our workforce to meet the demands of the ongoing manufacturing expansion and nearshoring boom. The challenge of nearshoring is precisely how to empower and equip our personnel with the necessary skills and expertise to meet the requirements of these new and emerging companies. We believe that investing in our human resources is the key to success in this dynamic and competitive landscape.

We also bring colleagues from Japan to share their knowledge, while they learn from our Mexican team. It is a bilateral process that benefits both parties. We also look for innovative ideas in Mexico to adopt them in our processes. We seek out startups with the capability to integrate new digital technologies, such as cloud computing, blockchain, machine learning, AI and cybersecurity, into different levels of OT. Specifically, we focus on the communication networks that exist in automation infrastructure. In this domain, there are numerous platforms and technologies, making the integration of IoT and the convergence of IT and OT complex.

While IT communication has been standardized for many years, OT still requires significant progress in standardizing protocols and enabling seamless information exchange. To facilitate this integration, we actively seek and invest in local partners who can enable these technologies within the OT world. 

Q: What are Mitsubishi Electric Automation’s objectives for both the Mexican and Spanish-speaking American markets in the mid and long term? 
A: As a Japanese company, Mitsubishi Electric has a different perspective of what mid- and long-term means, especially long term, which is usually considered a period of over five years. In the case of Mitsubishi Electric, we consider the long term a 100-year period, as we aim to create an investment that will transcend our own legacy. 

The organization's plans are solid and ambitious. Our goal is to establish Mitsubishi Electric Automation as a leader in the world of automation and, above all, to position ourselves as pioneers in the digital transformation of the manufacturing industry. We understand that this is not a short-term task and we are here to stay. With investments in human capital, collaborations with strategic partners and support for startups, we are confident that we will achieve our ambition of becoming leaders in the digital transformation of the manufacturing industry. 

Mitsubishi Electric Automation is a Japan-based provider of industrial automation solutions. With a strong focus on innovation, the company offers a wide range of products, including programmable logic controllers (PLCs), human-machine interfaces (HMIs), servo and motion control systems and industrial robots. 

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