The important role robots play in the industrial world is not a new concept, particularly in manufacturing, where automation is common. But, as technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate, what does the future hold for the manufacturing industry?
Does it mean robots will replace human labor? Well, not really. According to experts, robotics has many benefits, from safety to cost-effectiveness and precision.
Thanks to robotics, the manufacturing industry can automate tons of processes. A famous example is Ford, which has many robots operating in its assembly lines today. Other manufacturing companies are following suit too.
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How is robotics transforming the manufacturing industry? Will this impact humanity in any way? Let’s dive in.
Here are the top four ways in which robotics will shape the manufacturing industry:
Table of Contents
1. Contributing to 24/7 Operations at Manufacturing Sites
The use of operations means that enterprises can now carry out their activities for more extended periods, including 24 hours. With the rise in population in different parts of the globe, the demand for various products can only rise.
To continue providing supplies that match this demand, manufacturing plants and factories have incorporated robotics in their operations to enhance their output and manufacturing time.
Unlike humans who are subject to lack of motivation, exhaustion, union laws, and overwork, robots are immune to these issues. When humans overwork, for example, the overall work quality may suffer. This does not only subject such workers and their colleagues into hazardous working conditions, but it may also cause the manufacturing company to experience financial losses.
On the other hand, robots can work around the clock; they only need to get the necessary maintenance. Exhaustion is out of the question unless one of the machines needs some time to cool down. Of course, humans may still play a supervisory role to ensure nothing malfunctions.
According to a study, autonomous mobile robots are becoming popular in logistics within manufacturing plants. They’ll ultimately replace conventional AGVs and conveyor belts that use magnetic strips to operate.
The study participants (company executives) expect autonomous logistics robots to be more useful than traditional AGVs by 2025. Different types of autonomous robots can carry out both loading and transportation tasks.
For example, the producers of robotics are testing new uses of mobile robots that supply workstations. Besides ground transport, manufacturing firms may find it feasible to use drones in air transport.
Autonomous robots can be useful in picking, palletizing, and packaging operations. It’s also possible to use robots in kitting tasks. Machine learning and sensors are vital so that the robots can detect, handle, and pick flexible or unsorted parts in bins. Industrial uses of this type are already available.
3. Handling Hazardous Material
A manufacturer could be handling dangerous chemical materials, which could endanger the lives of human workers. Not only does the handling of hazardous raw materials increase the possibility of losing human lives, but it also opens up the likelihood of lawsuits.
That’s where robotics comes in to take over some roles that are too dangerous for humans.
Robots can handle toxic radioactive material, chemicals, and other elements without the risk that humans encounter. You can use robotics to run programs and ensure accuracy, which would be difficult to achieve due to human error.
And even if something goes wrong, you’ll be dealing with the mechanical repair rather than serious injuries or death.
Besides, robots can help prevent damage to those products kept in warehouses. It’s because once programmed, they are unlikely to mishandle any equipment. Factory owners and employers have incurred losses as a result of workers mishandling equipment.
4. Enhancing Collaboration
In manufacturing, collaboration is critical. AI robots mean that robots and humans can work together. Robots can use cameras, sensors, sonar to detect the presence of people and adjust their actions and speed as needed.
Here are some of the essential robotic sensors:
- 2-D and 3-D vision – A camera is placed in an industrial robot to locate features or parts in space. Instead of handling a single item, this system can handle a group of products. This system eliminates the need to rely on precision when placing objects in a workspace.
- Force sensor – They automate tasks that would be difficult to automate. Typically, these are assembly tasks, which involve high precision, with examples being quality control, pick and place, and surface finishing operations like sanding, polishing, and deburring.
- Collision sensor – It allows robots to be conscious of their surroundings and avoid any collisions.
- Safety sensor – Helps to enhance the safety of any person working close to the robot. It sends an alert to the machine to stop or move if an individual enters a particular range.
Collaborative robots (cobots) are already in use at various factories to enhance the manufacturing process. They are much smaller than automated robots, which is why they can work side by side with human workers and help them rather than replace them.
That way, cobots increase the satisfaction of human employees other than increasing their factory space efficiency and production output.
Most jobs require critical thinking, and that may leave you wondering whether a day will come for robots to take over such a role. While there’s currently no robotics to handle decision making like a human, technology is evolving fast, and the possibility of inventing an executive robot is pretty high.
Today’s robots are smarter, more collaborative, more mobile, and more adaptive. They can carry out more tasks and do it independently of humans. As they become more accessible and affordable, more factories will start using them.
As the manufacturing industry begins to embrace automation, the transformation will be evident. Robots will collaborate with humans, make working environments safer, improve precision and manufacturing times, prevent losses, and revolutionize various job roles and skills for human laborers.
Incorporating robotics in the factory operation and manufacturing processes will result in improved output. This emanates from better efficiency that contributes to more revenue.
Thus, robotics has the potential to create competition among companies of different sizes, and you should consider adopting it.
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters