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Analysis

Technology Implementation, a Gradual Process

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 09:29

Process digitalization and the move toward Industry 4.0 and a Big-Data reality are essential for companies to remain competitive. Yet, not all companies are ready or willing to embrace this due to different factors.
Mexico Automotive Review (MAR) 2018 surveyed its interviewees and found that out of 165 companies, 80 percent consider digitalization or automation very important in the development of their current activities. This is in line with the growth of Industry 4.0 as a megatrend impacting the industry. However, when it comes to the actual implementation of processes, only 32.8 percent of the companies surveyed by MAR have a 75-100 percent level of digitalization. Almost 30 percent of the companies have a 50-75 percent level of digitalization, while 23 percent are at 25-50 percent.
“There will always be processes that must be completed by humans,” says Manuel Sordo, General Manager for Latin America of Universal Robots. Even though the future may seem fully automated, there are tasks that robots are still unable to perform. Moreover, supervision is still needed even when a process is fully automated. Having said that, the advantages of technology implementation in manufacturing processes cannot be denied. Especially in repetitive or dangerous tasks, automation has become a key element to ensure productivity and safety of operators. For example, welding and painting processes in vehicle manufacturing are 100-percent automated because there is no need for a person to handle such materials or to deal with heavy components that can be easily maneuvered by a robot.
Automation can also help companies face their issues regarding talent availability. It is no secret that due to the rapid growth of the automotive industry, Mexico now faces a lack of specialized labor at a technical and operating level that has even led to a talent war in areas like the Bajio, where there is a large concentration of companies that offer similar salaries and working conditions. “Weighing issues such as staff turnover, which forces companies to hire and train people regularly, prompt clients to automate their operations,” says Adrián Salinas, General Manager of ATC Automation.
The challenge for companies is identifying where to implement automation and up to what point in order to increase productivity without compromising cost-competitiveness. In Mexico, labor costs still outweigh costs of technology implementation, especially for companies that are just entering the production chain. “Mexico is a country of SMEs, which means that technology implementation is always a challenge,” says Manuel Nieblas, Partner and Manufacturing Industry Leader at Deloitte Mexico. “What would help is for the government to offer more clarity on the kind of support it can provide to companies that want to grow their technological footprint.”