Automation has played a significant role in international business over the past few years. Development that began after the Great Recession of 2008 has been sped up by the new market expectations dictated by COVID-19. Now we can say that, in one form or another, it is part of the business strategy of companies focusing on efficiency. 2020 taught business decision-makers that finding the optimal level of human resources is not just a way to increase profits, but a standard requirement for secure and stable production. That is why we decided to start an international series dealing with this special knowledge as part of DECISION.
While 10 years ago, people had to explain the necessity and urgency of automation, we can now focus on using the field’s most efficient solutions. According to professionals, the next step of automation is the emergence of independence from manufacturers.
The traditional way of thinking
According to the traditional method, automation consists of a company with workflow challenges and a professional partner who builds up a system that provides the ideal solution for efficient work. In most cases, it often works like this because a certain automation professional works with a given manufacturer’s solutions, studies them precisely, and builds up a partnership with that manufacturer. So, the most efficient solution always comes from a product portfolio provided by a particular manufacturer. However, it is not necessarily the wrong way to go about the process, because there is compatibility between all the tools, machines, and systems of a certain manufacturer. Moreover, the distribution company specialised in process engineering and automation can learn it quite easily. Of course, this way of thinking has its downsides, since every manufacturer has its own specialities and thing at which they excel, but outside of their main products, they also provide ancillary products, which are acceptable in terms of quality but are not necessarily outstanding. Automation is a special field, and the highest-level decision-makers do not delve into the details. So they – correctly – allow the professional partner to make the decisions. To this end, we must be careful when choosing the professional partner because if they are the traditional sort, we might receive secondary or tertiary solutions in production and workflow because of their “brand loyalty”. These solutions might work, but they are far from optimal.
When we talk about brand loyalty, we must see the obvious business interests and points of connection behind it. It is in the manufacturers’ interest that they surround themselves with distributors that recommend their complete portfolio to the end-users and build the automation projects using their brand. However, we must bear in mind that this field contains highly specialised niches, and there are significant differences between solutions when it comes to implementation. We can say that manufacturers tend to focus on one automation field. No brand has outstanding knowledge in all the fields, and it results in a significant efficiency difference, and as a result, significant cost savings differences to the end-users. Although there are business areas where the opposite is true, in the case of automation, “brand loyalty” usually does not mean cost efficiency.
Compatibility is another important topic that affects the emergence and development of brand loyalty. Nobody likes if their equipment and computers are not compatible with one other. In the “prehistoric age”, telecommunication companies placed special emphasis on it. They tried to motivate customers so that once they tried their products, they would stay with them. This way of thinking has never worked in the case of automation. The main reason is that professionals with outstanding knowledge have to make machines and systems work. It depends on their knowledge whether they communicate with each other, so compatibility does not depend on the user, but on the professional. Of course, if a professional knows only one brand, they try to push the end-user into that direction, so that every system will be built upon that brand. Nowadays, the best professionals have the appropriate level of knowledge regarding the best manufacturers because that is their only chance to create their systems; only the best parts can build the ideal complete system. Naturally, this requires more serious, longer, and deeper learning processes for automation professionals, and people with average skills are left behind. However, the end-users need systems that provide the greatest cost efficiency and safest operations. That is the reason they chose automation. To this end, professionals must move towards brand independence.
The automation sector is rapidly developing, and just like every other developing sector, it supplies solutions at various levels for business decision-makers. “Brand independence” will be the most important measuring tool of real quality for the foreseeable future.