As the entrepreneur, futurist, scientist and engineer Peter Cochrane travels around the world he gets to visit a huge variety of industrial installations. He visits such installations which are spread all around the world, be it East or the West, developed or developing nations. All through his career he has been involved in production processes, building up of production facilities or consultation of their operations. During his visits to different industrial installations he observed that the building production facilities found in the Far East resemble those found in the West about 20 years ago. The operations here are people-intense and are based on an abundant supply of cheap labor.
But nowadays this approach is breaking down in many countries and the reason behind it is the unavailability of cheap labor. The competition because of the newcomers calls for a strong cost structure. Another mechanism is also used at work, the international demand of number and speed of product evolution is out spacing the human abilities. On both the matters, the move to replace human labor by robots has begun. This can also be termed as the automation of the production lines. This can also be seen with another point of view, i.e. a number of products like mobile phones and tablets have reached a point where the Western chip production was compelled to abandon the use of human labor and resort to robots and automation. In the East, Peter Cochrane has never seen anything new in the techniques or methods adopted for production.
What is being followed in East is a delayed version of what has already been adopted in the West years back. But Peter has been amazed by observing the marvelous levels of product reliability and performance that have been achieved by using the crude methods of production in the East. Machines are great at repetition of processes and can create exact replicas. While designing a production line, the presence of human hands is the last thing that one will want. This is the reason why the need for automation has grown so much these days. Machines don’t err like human hands and are always perfect and accurate. The big question that is present today is that will the automation of production lines of East will lift the levels of reliability and performance of our devices like smartphones and tablets to be at par with the chip industry.