Humans vs Machines or Human/Machine Teams


Technician using paper records to document work on an automated system.

Equipment Operator
Ideally, tracking systems should allow you to incorporate the skills and decision making capabilities of your staff to get the best outcome for managing your work and compliance.

Recent news articles have brought to light both the benefits and some drawbacks of automation, especially as they apply to the complex tasks that are performed during driving.  While great work has been done to make self driving cars a reality, there are some risks in taking a human driver out of the loop.  There is ongoing debate about how this will work out, but it is anticipated that the automated cars will eventually provide significant benefits to the passengers and the public around them.  It is up to us, as a society, to determine if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, and how much automation is enough, or too much.

One of the issues with this kind of technology is that once the user starts gaining confidence in the system, the user allows their attention to detail to wane and the the vigilance of the user declines.  This reduces the effectiveness of the user as a check on the automated system to near zero, as the system can make thousands of decisions per second whereas the user can be easily distracted since the user realizes that the chance they will need to intervene is vanishingly small.   If there are any errors, and they are missed by the automated system, the likelihood increases that the user will not catch the error in time to react, and the full ramifications of the error can be realized.

The automated vehicle system is high stakes, but the same types of problems can occur with more mundane automated systems if the human is removed from a substantial role in the operation.

Validated CMMS software, that is used to track calibration, maintenance, and validation is an area in which the same types of issues come to play.  If the system is highly automated, there are benefits in that the system can do checks on data entry, or even perform data entry, and may automatically send out schedules and notifications.  This can be helpful and reduce the staff support, but by reducing the role of the human in the process, it also reduces the ability of the user to have important controls in place.  The result can be that if there are mistakes then they will be replicated more rapidly and may take longer to track down.

At GxPReady!, we have designed GxPReady! Suite to have a significant component of interaction with the user and the user is allowed the flexibility of making decisions that affect the process.  A qualified person that is using the software is able to make changes that might be overly restricted in an automated system, and to manage the scheduling and work documentation in a manner that fits with their process.  We provide the tools and allow the users the flexibility to use their ingenuity to adapt them to their use.  In this way we focus on taking care of the most mundane tasks and providing the most value for the cost.  As an example, when it comes down to how you will handle that out of tolerance (OOT) condition, or even determining if it is OOT, our users decide how to handle it however works best for their company.  We believe you already have enough work to do without having to change your company to work with new software,  especially if you are a small or mid-sized company.

That said, we are still looking forward to seeing ongoing developments in automation and the increasing value of integration as humans work with computers to get the best possible outcomes!