“Automate to survive” has become an industrial cliché. Like all clichés, it contains a kernel of truth. But, again, like all clichés, it needs to be periodically reexamined to see if it really fits the situation to which it’s being applied. Automation is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. Simple as that proposition is, surprisingly it is not one that is always immediately recognized. Just as it was once an up-hill effort to convince management that operations ought to be automated, it can now be a difficult task to persuade them they ought not to automate. The “factory of the future” — the completely automated, labor-free plant — is an appealing concept. However, it can also be misleading.

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