ProMat Keynote Day 2: Smart machines to transform industry and jobs

The new breed of intelligent machines that are core to Industry 4.0 will eliminate waste in supply chains and enable new business models, but industry also needs to think about how smart machines will disrupt jobs, said Markus Lorenz, partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group, Tuesday’s keynote presenter.

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The new breed of intelligent machines that are core to Industry 4.0 will eliminate waste in supply chains and enable new business models, but industry also needs to think about how smart machines will disrupt jobs, said Markus Lorenz, partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group, Tuesday’s keynote presenter.

An expert on Industry 4.0—the fourth industrial revolution concept that takes in smart, connected machines and the Internet of Things (IoT)—Lorenz explained how machines like cranes at ocean ports are becoming smart enough to weigh containers as they are loaded and optimize load balancing, leading to fuel savings for ocean freight companies, and a loading-as-a-service business model for crane manufacturers.

Similarly, smart machines such as autonomous picking robots are leading to change in warehousing, Lorenz said, in part by using sensors and vision technologies to be able to do things like see and sense which produce is freshest, and quickly pick and sort items to ensure retailers get fresh goods. IoT-based monitoring of food shipments and smarter machines in production plants can help eliminate much of the product loss in the food industry, Lorenz said.  Using IoT sensing, he said, “You can basically see what happens to your products once they leave the factory.”

Lorenz said it is clear that intelligent machines will lead to a significant loss of production jobs across multiple industries, but there should be a net gain of jobs overall in roles such as sales and service, field service and analysts who help devise new business models around smart machines. “Human labor will play a critical role … but the nature of that work will be different,” he said.

Lorenz encouraged attendees to apply new technologies, but examine ways to “take people along” using education and applying technology in way that enhances human capabilities. For example, he said, in field service, augmented reality (AR) glasses can help relatively inexperienced technicians in the field connect with and share views of service details with the most experienced engineers located in a central office. This in essence “upgrades” human capability through AR technology, Lorenz said.

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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