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We'll always be smarter than technology

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Tech Talk by Peter Mate
Peter Mate is owner and president of Planit Canada, a software and services company devoted to servicing the manufacturing industry. For more info email
It’s no surprise that I’m a huge technology advocate. I’ve always been fascinated with technology and how it changes our lives. Sometimes it’s great changes and sometimes it’s new hurdles to overcome. That being said, I feel even stronger about our abilities as humans. We’ll always be smarter than technology.
When I first started in the industry in 1999, I would constantly hear how a human could figure out a better optimization for a sheet than any optimizing software. At first, it was depressing. It’s only when I looked at the big picture that I started to better understand an optimizer’s role in a shop. The software does not have to be better than a human at any given task it just needs to be quicker and more predictable. Having a human optimize all the parts for a kitchen on sheets requires skill and time. The two most costly things in a shop. An automated optimizer would do a pretty close job and do it in seconds or minutes with very little skill required. Adding an automated optimizer would give predictable outcomes and free up the skilled human’s time to do more complex tasks. When you look at the big picture it’s a win.
The key element in this example is that technology enables the humans to do more and do it faster. It doesn’t replace humans. If there’s one comment I’ve heard the most over the past 21 years, it’s when shops get their first nesting CNC. Everyone is resistant to the idea and the large investment, but when it hits their shop floor and starts producing, the comments are 
“I should have done this a 
long time ago.”
As the past few months have moved us to working remotely and with more technology than ever, it’s important to remember that technology should never replace humans, but rather enable them to do more. Sure, video calls, online meetings and webinars are great, but they should not replace humans interacting. These technologies are 
there to supplement and enhance our jobs, not to replace our in-person interactions.
As I type, the excavation is nearing completion on what will be Planit Canada’s new head office. While the timing of the first shovel going into the ground during a pandemic that forced the world to stop going into the office could be a little nerve wrecking for some, it’s not shaking me. We’ve always had about half our team working remotely and, on the road, so this was not new to us. We’ve also seen the negative effects of having isolated employees that rarely get to collaborate with their peers in person or even to just share a meal. We’ve learned that technology, online meetings, emails, working remotely is all great, but it has to be supplemented with in-person interactions. We’re human. We’ll always crave human interaction.
So while the world works from home, I’m still extremely excited during every step of the new office build. Some of our team will continue to work remotely, some will alternate working from the office and home, some will be on the road, but at the end of the day we will have a beautiful professional home base to invite our customers, industry associates and team to be human.

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