Automation has been an important tool in a manufacturer’s toolbox for centuries. From steam-powered looms to cutting-edge industrial robots, hardware automation arrived first and continues to expand. Over the past decade or so of Industry 4.0, software automation has also grown, with machine learning and artificial intelligence embedded in more and more processes. But my latest report, Smart Manufacturing: Don’t Forget The People, argues that even the most advanced manufacturing processes work best when they combine the three vertices of Forrester’s Automation Triangle: hardware automation, software automation, and people.
Neither hardware automation nor software automation nor the human workforce have all the attributes to meet the needs of the modern industrial enterprise or its customers. The report introduces Forrester’s Automation Triangle to show that all three are required and must work together. Each has its particular strengths, illustrated in the report with specific examples:
- Hardware automation helps with repetitive physical tasks.
- Software automation crunches the numbers to improve repetitive workflows.
- People are adaptive, creative, and resilient.
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