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Everybody drives against the flow of traffic. So what?

A DECISION series about automation, Part 2

You know that tall tale that became a business catchphrase. The one with the driver driving against the flow of traffic on the highway who calls the radio and informs them that everybody is “driving in the wrong direction”. Not even business books could come to a final conclusion about it. Some people say that “we should follow the trends”, while others articulate just the opposite: if everybody is “doing it this way”, you should “do it that way”. This question gained a new meaning in the field of automation in 2021.

Be an innovator, but not too much of one

This is the best command when planning a business strategy, isn’t it? Novelty and development are always important, but you should not “overdo” them because if you do, they will not understand it. There is a clear trend in automation since it started to conquer the world of business: there are established manufacturers, and they have their “distributors” to whom they provide product portfolios. Distributors try to “get as close as possible” to manufacturers, both businesswise and emotionally, so that they can have a competitive advantage. It resulted in the transformation of automation because companies have brand-specific knowledge about a particular manufacturer, and less emphasis is placed on the strategic, consulting levels; that is, on the “independent” levels. However, it is not necessarily needed because a given brand’s solutions can cover a company’s processes fairly well. But it is another issue altogether if they are the best solutions in each field. Are they the most effective solutions in every sector and industry? “Mutual interests” are formed between the manufacturers and distributors, and companies responsible for automation processes sell themselves as “consultants”, but they are often just professional points of sales of a given manufacturer. Some companies do not choose this “well-trodden path”; for them, professional development is independent of the brand – actually, it has always been – and they train their professionals to know the portfolios of all the important manufacturers, putting their approach and training on a higher level. As a result, they have a clear picture of the given market. Of course, manufacturers do not like it because it infringes on the “mutual interest”. These companies take into account another kind of “mutual interest”, the more obsolete, “old school” one: they look for and find the mutual point taking into consideration the customers’ interests, even if it means no short-term “win-win” situation with the manufacturer. It is a tough decision. It is the “which one of my fingers should I bite?” issue. However, in the long run, what matters is the satisfaction of the customers and end-users. Am I right? Let’s hope so.

The price of independence

This type of independence usually has a great price, not only in the field of automation, but in general. In the short run. Actually, that is not true, because “short run” can mean decades, just like in the case of automation. B2B mutual interests can work very well even if users do not benefit from it. I would like to correct it at once because they do not come off badly; they just do not receive the best solution. But it works. It is reliable. What is the problem, then? In non-crisis situations, when we do not have to keep a close eye on every cost item, there is no problem with it. When it comes to a well-functioning factory generating profits, an FMCG or healthcare company, who cares about a few tens and hundreds of thousands? Nevertheless, one thing is sure: 2020 changed this way of thinking. Although it was not the right direction, 2021 will definitely be about cost-efficiency. However, I do not want anybody to experience it as a tragedy. That is how things work. A business decision-makers responsibility is to focus on the best and most optimal solution under all circumstances. They should be driven by wanting to develop themselves and their environments, their own companies or the company they work for as responsible leaders. It is no wonder why a global pandemic and an economic crisis resulting from it have to happen so that we start to make decisions the way we are supposed to as managers. Now is the chance for us to show what we are capable of. After 2008, a generation rose because its members were ready to make decisions, make a change, and leave behind business obsessions that prevailed for decades. Automation is very trendy now. However, just because somebody starts to apply the profession’s advantages, it does not mean that they will become modern. Automation is “too old” and proven of a solution for that. If we want to be modern, we need to find new directions for automation. We should deal with this question from a strategic and independent point of view.