Sometimes the future of automated manufacturing can feel like a scene straight out of a science fiction movie: fully automated facilities run by humanoid robots, churning out massive amounts of product with absolute precision and efficiency. The reality of automated manufacturing and robotics is slightly different. Robotics and automated manufacturing equipment are created, run, and maintained by human workers.
Robotics and automation have become more and more indispensable to the manufacturing industry. Thanks to their ability to increase production and decrease costs with efficiencies that remove human error from the manufacturing equation, demand for automation continues to grow. There are three main areas of manufacturing that will experience heightened evolution due to robotics and automation:
- Job roles
- Scaling up
1. Automated Manufacturing Job Roles
During the recession in 2009, robotics experienced a massive surge in global demand. Why? Because even though the global economy was undergoing a recession, robotics demonstrated the ability to revolutionize manufacturing by providing unprecedented production and therefore revenue increases. But perhaps one of the greatest benefits was the creation of new automated manufacturing job roles.
Most people tend to think of automated manufacturing and robotics in terms of potential job loss or displacement. While new job opportunities are created for skilled labor, a negative aspect of automation is it’s tendency to replace unskilled job positions.
Individuals educated in robotics and engineering can use their skills to contribute to the efficiency of automated manufacturing. As automated manufacturing continues to expand, more jobs will be created to supply the demand for skilled labor. Compared to 20 years ago, U.S. manufacturing jobs require greater skills and offer much higher compensation. One of the most recent developments in automated manufacturing is the development of collaborative robots that require a symbiotic relationship with a laborer to complete tasks.
2. Production on Steroids
If you’re worried about losing money due to robotics, don’t be. Multiple studies have shown that the use of industrial robotics increases labor productivity and factory output. According to a survey on manufacturing practices, 59% of manufacturers stated that they currently used some form of robotics technology in their production.
Automated manufacturing not only allows businesses to increase their rates of production, it also reduces the cost associated with inefficiencies, such as assembly line mistakes and misuse of resources. A robot that is programmed to perform a certain function will perform that role with absolute precision and efficiency. This allows manufacturing facilities to increase the number of products being created, enhancing their speed at which they can ship and fulfill orders.
3. Scaling Up or Dying Out
Adaptability is essential for those manufacturing companies hoping to compete in a world influenced by industrial robotics. Facilities that incorporate automation into their production lines will improve their ability to compete in the industry. A potential long-term benefit of automated manufacturing is the producer’s ability to decrease costs, thanks to improved product speed and efficiency. This increases their market appeal and can have a significant impact on sales and revenue.
Not everything needs to be automated. There are situations where a human just does the job better. The more predictable and routine a role is, the easier it is to automate. For example; cutting and soldering can be automated much easier than a surgical procedure. Maintaining product quality is always key to successfully implementing manufacturing automation in your facility.
Robotics and Manufacturing Improvements
Although there have been concerns in the past about large, clumsy robots, modern models are designed with safety in mind.
Modern robotics is beginning to solve safety concerns with collaboration and improved awareness. Personnel work in tandem with industrial robots to achieve productivity goals. The collaboration usually consists of programming and directives on the end of the worker and responses from the robot that accomplishes tasks. The advanced new robotics include sensors and cameras that can identify when a person enters a hazard zone to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
As automated manufacturing continues to advance, businesses can ensure they remain successful by anticipating their facility’s future needs and establishing a plan to adapt.