Advancing analytics and AI in manufacturing
Manufacturing has changed with the rise of digitization, automation and industry 4.0. digitization and automation will increase our productivity and allow us to better serve our customers, but to maximize these benefits, our skillsets must change, too. As part of our Flex 20 by 2020 goals, we have pledged to increase the average training reach to employees by 5 percent year over year.
“Knowledge is doubling every 18 months. What we learned in school, will not take us through our careers. As leaders, we need to focus on preparing our teams and ourselves for a smarter, more connected world,” said Paul Baldassari, our Chief People and Resources Officer.
Let’s take a look at some of the skills we’re investing in to bring highly qualified people to your projects.
Advanced analytics and business process automation create operational efficiencies
We are investigating two new operations technologies aimed at digitizing our operations: 1) advanced analytics (AA), which includes machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), and 2) business process automation (BPA).
As we research these technologies, we’re not doing it alone. In partnership with our vendors and customers, we plan to pilot several new projects exploring new ways of working in an increasingly digitized environment. We are also partnering with researchers from leading institutions to understand the results of their academic work and how we can apply these findings to increase productivity and cost efficiency within Flex.
The operations we’re optimizing through automation and digitization are also becoming greener. Introducing more automated processes decreases waste and lowers energy usage, meaning your products are produced smarter and more sustainably. We’ll analyze the social and environmental impact of these changes to hold ourselves accountable in reaching our Flex 20 by 2020 goals, including our goal to achieve and maintain a diversion rate of waste from manufacturing processes at or above 95%.
Enhanced visualizations speed time to market
The cost of automation and data management is decreasing, allowing us to more widely use these new technologies to streamline our processes. Identifying an opportunity for digitization or automation early in the Sketch-to-Scale® process can mean a reduction in time and cost. For example, we can design automated functions or tests before a product in the design phase ever hits the production line, speeding production time and increasing efficiency. We can help you take the guesswork out of implementing changes in your supply chain by digitizing your end-to-end network. We simulate changes to your supply chain, then analyze the effects of those changes in real time.
While many production processes will benefit from these enhancements, that may not be the case for every manufacturing line. We will carefully consider those that would most benefit from advanced analytics and robotic process automation.
We can help you take the guesswork out of implementing changes in your supply chain by digitizing your end-to-end network.
Process advancements elevate, not replace employees
Out-of-the-box thinking, high emotional intelligence (EQ), and a strong drive to continuously improve are all traits in the employees that are most adaptable to change. These employees are willing to take extra time to learn the skills necessary to succeed in a digitized, automated work environment. Our managers and leaders are trained to identify these employees as the next generation of leaders and thinkers within the company.
We will study the social impact of the automation and digitization projects we’ve implemented, and specifically, the ways they affect existing roles. The misconception that automation will replace human workers is common – in reality, jobs will not be eliminated, but will evolve. This technology is an enabler allowing employees to take on new and different tasks, often more value-adding than before. Monitoring and learning how employees are responding and adjusting will allow us to mitigate concerns and continue developing a cooperative system between our employees and automation.
Employee upskilling drives future innovations
There are many examples of how we have taken up the challenge to upskill our employees, including a business process automation and artificial intelligence training designed by our Analytics and AI experts to raise basic awareness.
We provide problem-solving opportunities for our employees where they can use their digitization knowledge to produce reliable solutions. For instance, in February 2018 we hosted a Hackathon in India, in which employees provided a digitized solution to a business case. We received 23 solutions from employees across departments including IT, Procurement, Engineering and Quality.
We provide opportunities for employees to develop automations that support their own day-to-day activities and advance their professional skill set in the process. In partnership with an internal developer, employees can test and deploy their own automated office solutions on computers with robotic process automation (RPA) software. This process of upskilling our employees not only exposes them to a potential field of interest, but allows us to leverage their innovations as a springboard towards future automations.
We are proud to offer opportunities for knowledge development and advancement for our employees.
Investing in the next generation of talent
We collaborate with academic institutions and consortia around the world to ensure we stay ahead of the curve. These efforts extend around the world from the US to China, Austria, Poland, Mexico and Hungary. These efforts include internship opportunities; internal opportunities for knowledge development in business process automation, through job shadowing and software training; our very own Flex Mechanical School program on Big Data analytics and Mechanical Center Automation; a university partnership aimed at defining engineering and technology standards in education; our engineering degrees available in Mexico as part of our employee scholarship program; and many others.
These collaborations extend to individuals, who then become success stories. Let’s take Andrew C. as an example. Andrew joined us as an intern in Austin, TX in the summer of 2017. Upon obtaining his Master’s degree, Andrew began work on his doctorate and has now joined us full time focusing on Advanced Analytics. His new unique skillset allows us to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
"Working at Flex has provided me the opportunity to further develop my skills as a data scientist and to implement cutting-edge analytics," said Andrew.
The road ahead
There are still many opportunities for us to expand these efforts. We are exploring internal online training platforms to support technology-heavy courses, like machine learning, neural networks, and deep learning. Additionally, we attend key conferences and events in the Industry 4.0 space to ensure we build our knowledge in-house on our direction, digital footprint and focus years in advance.
Our employees are actively engaged in these efforts and passionate about elevating their skills. This excitement translates to a proliferation of highly qualified professionals with the comfort and skills necessary to maximize the benefits of automation and digitization – including faster production, reduced cost and more sustainable practices. As the world of work changes, we are finding new ways to harness this excitement and allow new talent to emerge. Our commitment to investing in skill development guarantees that our customers and partners will work with a highly qualified team who will create tangible value for them from Sketch-to-Scale®.