Agility Wins The Race

Oct 5th, 2021 / vpizzinato

By: Peng-Sang Cau | VP, LS Emerging Markets and Symphoni™

“Agility is the ability to create and respond to change in order to profit in a turbulent business environment.” - Jim Highsmith

I am a huge geek when it comes to the big ideas of manufacturing, the larger forces at play in automation, and the future of our industry.

Today, we see market dynamics shifting in unpredictable ways due to rapidly evolving consumer behaviour, product shortages, and the relentless march of automation.

Recently, the economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote that COVID-19 is “accelerating the development and adoption of new technologies to automate human work.” Two-thirds of companies around the world sought to take cover from the short-term pressures of COVID-19 by automating as much as they could. Now they are doubling down.

Wrapped up within these massive and often unprecedented forces is opportunity.

Sometimes this opportunity takes the form of incremental innovation, as we have seen with automation over the past several decades. Sometimes it is rampant creative destruction, as with entertainment, transportation, photography, and some sectors of manufacturing.


The conventional wisdom in most automated manufacturing, and especially in the assembly automation process, is that you must choose between agility and speed when determining the kind of automation equipment, you want to invest in. If you go for speed you sacrifice agility. If you embrace agility, you give up on speed.

With Symphoni™, we solved this dilemma between speed and flexibility for the assembly of small, discrete components. Symphoni is a market proven, digital platform that is powered by patented synchronous motion technology that allows for high speeds and high precision in standardized modular building blocks. This means reduced costs and faster time to market because you avoid cumbersome custom solutions.


For most manufacturers who wants to gain more market share, the choice is clear: you must be agile.

More to the point, in January 2021 The Economist found that businesses before the pandemic looked to automation to lower costs and enhance performance. After the pandemic and going forward, firms are looking to automation to build flexibility, increase resilience, and lower risk.

In short: with automation you can compete. With agility you can win.

Consumer demand for personalized, unique products and services will not change due to COVID or any other short-term disruption. Consumers are impatient for a business to design the latest product, ramp up new processes, and build the machines to make it happen.

More to the point, medical and pharmaceutical products will need to be produced quickly and flexibly to respond to future health crises—even when they are rapidly developed, as with the COVID vaccines. And because national borders could again close and supply chains grind to a halt, as we saw in the first year of COVID, such products may need to be produced close to their home markets. COVID occurred a hundred years since the Spanish Flu. Due to globalization, industrial agriculture and other factors, the next pandemic will happen much sooner.

As these cycles recur more frequently, you need agility to manage supply chains in flux and shorten time to market. In other words, in the modern world, agility is speed.

Then there is the reality of automation itself. We are following a similar path to the evolution of computers. In the early days of automation, a robot could do one thing and one thing only. If you wanted to do something else, you needed a whole new robot.

Just like the personal computer, the smartphone, and whatever comes next, the future of automation is agility without sacrificing speed. Everyone in advanced manufacturing wants flexibility, adaptability, and versatility—but they have been told they must trade away high-speed.


Symphoni is for manufacturers who want a single machine to assemble multiple products or processes, or who want to invest in depreciable assets that allow them to quickly adopt to changing market conditions as we saw in 2020.

Unlike traditional equipment that is custom-designed and built for a specific product, Symphoni can run 24/7, assembling multiple product variations. Investing in Symphoni is no different than investing in injection molding, packaging, or a CNC mill and lathe machine.

Because Symphoni consists of configurable modular building blocks, customers can start with a Sonata™, which is a single Symphoni module with a control panel and SuperTrak.

Sonata™ can be used during new product development or market testing when production is low, and speed is less important. In the Life Science space, Sonata™ helps proof production process to reduce machine and process FDA validation time, thus increasing your time to market for new product launch.

As market demands grow and production picks up, the Sonata™ cell can remain with the R&D department or integrated as one of the modules in the fully automated production equipment. Because it is agile and fast, Symphoni can:

  • Maximize output per capex dollar
  • Maximize output per square meter of floor space
  • Maximize machine utilization
  • Minimize lead time on new machines
  • Minimize time to market on new product
  • Minimize validation time and expenses.

And while we’re talking about agility, let’s make one more thing clear: Symphoni is just the beginning.

When I think of the successful factories of the future, I don’t see a maze of custom machinery snaking around gargantuan factories. I see standardized solutions. I see modular automation. I see machines that can do more than one thing and do it quickly.

I see agility winning the race.

Want to learn more?