Episode 118 – Current State of Automation
In this episode, I was joined by two guests for the November 2020 cover story of Material Handling Wholesaler. I discuss the current state of automation with Nathan Bivans, CTO of FORT Robotics, and Martin McVicar, Co-founder and CEO of Combilift.
- Both Nathan and Martin are involved in automation and robotics but in two different ways. Martin and Combilift provide forklift solutions that help to maximize your warehouse space by allowing you to use more narrow aisles due to their unique designs. Nathan and FORT Robotics help to bring safety and security solutions to the automation and robotics world for all industries to help ensure human safety and protect companies from potential security breaches.
- As we discuss the current state of automation, Martin discusses how the industry has taken a step back from automating everything possible to really take a look at the full process and see what portions could benefit the most from automation. The emphasis is on ensuring that the process is fully optimized before a company starts to automate for the sake of automation. Additionally, we hear from Nathan what we have been hearing from many guests that automation demand is increasing due to the pandemic to help meet the increased consumer demand and also to help meet the new requirements of social distancing.
- One thing I have noticed through the pandemic is that it has created interesting opportunities to push technology forward due to necessity. Nathan discusses how the automation world is seeing technology push forward from a hardware standpoint. He talks about how the increased demand for automation has helped to reduce the cost of the components needed for automation which has helped to make automation more accessible for many industries and companies. Martin also discusses something I have been seeing since MODEX 2020 which is an increase in collaboration between different companies allowing for robotic solutions to communicate better in an operation. These collaborations help to ensure that when a company is implementing automation their system will properly communicate with the solutions and get the most benefit from it. The collaborations also help to push the technology forward for the benefit of all.
- An interesting coincidence between Nathan and Martin is that they both grew up around farms and working on farm equipment. This generated a very interesting discussion on how many of the population in current times do not have that type of exposure which makes something like operating a forklift more difficult to get used to and pick up on. Due to this, companies like Combilift are making their products easier to adapt to and pick up on. Martin provides some really interesting insights on the thought process beyond just getting the machine to move which include calculating loads in your head or understanding how to properly lift something. He talks about how they are putting systems in place that will do this for the operator to make training and operation easier.
Listen to the episode below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.