Since the Victorian era, technological advances in automation have underpinned every industrial revolution. Now, thanks to robotics, the manufacturing industry is about to undergo another revolution, known as Industry 4.0. The continuous progress made in cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Interoperability has paved the way for more sophisticated, autonomous and intelligent machinery. The result? A higher quality production process at a lower operating cost.
From electronics and automotive, to food and pharmaceuticals, robotics are now being called upon more and more to take on human capabilities. Powered by the convergence of cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), cloud-connected sensors and machine learning, the manufacturing process is changing once and for all.
The advantages of intelligent automation
As robotic technology continues to develop, its capabilities are no longer limited to simply undertaking hazardous and repetitive tasks. Robotic automation enables a level of accuracy, consistency and speed beyond human ability. This new generation of robotics will see machinery equipped to undertake more complex and dextrous tasks, meaning human-robot interaction will evolve. As robots take on a more comprehensive role in the manufacturing process, human operators are taking on new responsibilities, including monitoring and maintenance of robotic systems. This shift has led to manufacturers achieving higher levels of productivity, with autonomous robots working around the clock with pinpoint accuracy and consistency, without the burden of fatigue or safety issues.
Flexibility in production is another exciting development. Thanks to reconfigurable robots and machinery, manufacturers are able to customise products in line with consumer demand, whilst still enjoying the benefits and cost savings of mass production techniques. This agile and customer-centric approach means manufacturers can react and adapt to changing markets, and support their customers to personalise or develop new products when called upon.
At Servest, the teams have been looking at how utilising robotics can offer innovative solutions for its customers. Working with a large manufacturing customer, Servest introduced its first robot, a scrubber dryer nicknamed Brian. The bot can learn its environment and navigate easily and efficiently. Although they can work independently, it’s crucial that people are trained properly on how to set up, operate and maintain bots to realise long-term benefits from this technology.
How to drive this digital transformation?
Though it is clear that investing in new technologies and digitising systems will unlock unprecedented opportunities to improve manufacturing processes, it’s important not to forget about investing in people. Many skilled workers will be apprehensive about the advancing capabilities of machines, but the real question is around job security and how they will fit into the “factory of the future”.
As repetitive and manual tasks are handed over to machines, new and unfamiliar opportunities for skilled workers are arising, including data visualisation and programming. However, one of the biggest challenges to adopting this digital transformation is the lack of necessary skills and digital culture within organisations. As it stands, technology is advancing quicker than the frame works and training programmes available to ensure people are equipped to operate and maintain new and complex machinery. Ultimately, the successful adoption of industry 4.0 will rely heavily upon people-focused initiatives. Retraining current colleagues, recruiting new talent proficient in digital skills and establishing robust ways of working will be vital to maintaining the integrity of the production process.
the future of manufacturing
Maximising the benefits that robotics offer, means understanding where best to implement this technology. Here at Servest, that means monitoring and analysing high footfall areas to further understand how best to prioritise and allocate resources. It’s not about replacing people with robots, rather freeing up skilled colleagues to perform more intricate and specialist tasks, while robots perform routine duties.
The speed at which new technology develops is certainly not going to let up. Those that invest in developing and attracting people with the skills to keep up with these technological advancements, stand the best chance of reaping the benefits of digitisation.
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