By: Joseph Zulick, MRO Electric & Supply
When most people hear things about robots in the workplace, specifically in the manufacturing industry, it is in a negative context. After all, those robots are “stealing” jobs from hard-working men and women. Or so the media would have you believe. Though there is some job loss, robots are doing much more good than harm in the manufacturing industry. By taking a closer look at how robots are used in the industry, it is clear to see the many advantages they unlock.
The $15 billon manufacturing robotics industry is growing at a staggering rate. Of that industry, around 32% is dedicated to robots made for electronic manufacturing while another 36% is dedicated to automotive manufacturers. However, as more and more sectors of manufacturing are turning to robotics to solve their problems, teams are developing more advanced robots to assist in the manufacturing process.
Safety For Workers
If workers dislike coming to terms with how often robots replace jobs, they may want to think again. In fact, those robots are probably saving lives. Many workers in manufacturing are placed in dangerous environments simply by the nature of their job. When large parts, hot objects, and moving machines are all going a hundred miles-per-hour there is a high chance of injury or death. No amount of training or safety videos can change the fact that many manufacturing plants are dangerous places.
Fortunately, robots don’t feel pain, don’t have burnable skin, and if they get crushed they can be replaced. That’s the key to bringing cutting-edge robots into the manufacturing workplace: worker safety. Many executives in the manufacturing space are turning to robots not necessarily to cut down on staff or save money but to keep their workers safe. Robots can be used in some of the most dangerous parts of the manufacturing process, leaving safer jobs behind for human workers.
Precision & Uniformity
Since the late 1700s when Eli Whitney made the first muskets with interchangeable parts, manufacturing has been all about making parts in a precise manner to ensure they are all uniform. Though highly-trained human workers can help make things more uniform, they are not 100% precise. When it comes to manufacturing in areas like automobiles, technology, or small parts, the accuracy, and precision of robotics is a natural fit.
When you program a robot to do a job, it does so just as ordered in the same way every time. The result? Nearly perfect match no matter if 10 parts are made or 10,000. However, it takes a smart robot that can execute perfectly precise movements to make this work as desired. Thankfully, cutting-edge robotic technology of today is up-to-par.
Increased Efficiency & Decreased Manufacturing Times
For shopping giants like Amazon, time is money. Literally. This is why major media outlets have covered the emergence of robots working in tandem with humans in their warehouses (NYT). In a world where you can get practically any item in 2 days or left thanks to Amazon Prime, there is no way human workers can keep up with the pace. In fact, it is this robotic innovation that has allowed Amazon to process and ship orders in such an impressive manner.
Though it is a great example, Amazon isn’t the only company taking advantage of these so-called “pick and pack” robots. As the name suggests, these robots are designed specially to pick things up off an assembly line, off a warehouse shelf, or even out of a pile of identical items. Then, they either pack them directly in a box or pass them off to the next robot in line for further processing. These robots have to be extremely sophisticated since they are performing a variety of movements. This means they need to be flexible and have great range of motion. Modern robots like the ones Amazon uses are top-notch bots that are built to handle any challenge thrown at them. Best of all, there are more and more agencies and engineering teams that are developing custom robots to help manufacturers run more efficiently.
The Future Is AI
When it comes to robots, the only limitation is their brain. Since humans traditionally have to program these robots to perform tasks with complex programming languages, they have been limited. However, artificial intelligence (AI) is here to change that. By upgrading or creating new robots with integrated AI, robots will be able to do more than ever before. They will be able to see, interact, and learn more about what they are doing. This cutting-edge technology will improve every area that we have talked about so far. In fact, with AI, robots in the manufacturing space will be able to do nearly anything. This will bring safer environments, cheaper costs, and quicker turnaround times to the manufacturing industry as a whole.
About the Author:
Joseph Zulick is a content manager at MRO Electric and Supply. MRO Electric and Supply provides factory automation parts (such as FANUC CNC and Siemens Simodrives) to several industries including plant automation, electrical and mechanical engineering, manufacturing, and packaging. Joseph has a strong affinity for entrepreneurship, classic Toyota Land Cruisers, the Internet of Things, Pareto distribution, fitness, and German Shepherd dogs.