HANOVER, Germany—Continental is taking a positive but measured approach to the automation of its tire manufacturing operations, according to Niko Setzer, head of the company's global tire business.
The inherent challenges of automating various elements of the tire making process, require investments that have a solid, long term business plan, Setzer said. So, the German tire maker is pushing ahead with digitalization and automation plans while keeping a focus on its long term goals. Continental, Setzer said, is "not automating for the sake of automating" but is moving foward with value creation in mind.
"You can do a 100 percent automated factory, of course, but you spend much more after than you do right now and you might lose a certain amount of flexibility," he said.
So, in making such decisions, a key consideration is whether to invest on the capital side or on the people side.
"Investments in automation are more capital-intensive," said Setzer. "You have to ask yourself: what is my saving on the capital side versus having people on the process and being more flexible but as well as the possibility of human-error? So it is always a balance."
That said, automation is a priority for Continental, Setzer went on to emphasize: "We are constantly optimizing where we see strong opportunities on the digitalization part: using data in order to get smarter, with smart factories getting machines to talk to each other as well as the ergonomic part."