HANOVER, Germany — Continental A.G. 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.
As well as the inherent challenges of automating various elements of the tire-making process, investments in this area need have a solid, long-term business-case, the Continental executive board member told European Rubber Journal during a recent press event in Hanover.
So, while the German tire maker is pushing ahead with digitalization and automation, it is "not automating for the sake of automating. It has to be about value-creation," Mr. Setzer said.
"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 explained.
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," he said. "You have to ask yourself, 'What is my saving on the capital side vs. 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, Mr. Setzer went on to emphasise.
"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."