The first simple robots stepped onto the factory floor approximately half a century ago. Today, you can hardly imagine a manufacturing business without automatic lines, steel robotic arms and CNC industrial machines. Robots in the manufacturing industry have become the new normal, as they are making significant strides in improving various production processes.
In this article, we have compiled the main advantages of the use of robotics in manufacturing.
Current State of Robotics in Manufacturing
Multipurpose industrial robots have already replaced numerous human workers in factories around the globe. According to Statista, manufacturers in different regions tend to increase their spending on smart machines that automate an industrial environment. Thus, the greatest increase in robot shipments is expected in the Asian/Australian region by 2020.
Estimated annual industrial robot shipments in selected regions worldwide from 2016 to 2020, by region (in 1,000 units)
The research by the International Federation of Robotics complements the data: China has been the largest purchaser of the industrial robot technology in 2015, with 27% of all robots sold worldwide; moreover, the number of annual robotic units shipped to China is expected to see the fastest growth — more than 22% on a CAGR basis through 2025. In the top five consumers of robots, China is accompanied by the Republic of Korea, North America, Japan and Germany.
The industrial robotics market will exceed the $33 billion mark by 2025.
Among other current trends for robotics for manufacturing is the integration of hardware with smart technologies such as IoT solutions, artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, Big Data and cloud computing. This allows for creating more independent robotic systems that are not only able to carry out basic repetitive operations such as loading, assembling or modifying parts, but can also perform cognitive tasks, making instant decisions and improving processes without human intervention.
Based on the blend of technologies, collaborative robots, or cobots, are coming into to play. They are meant to work both on their own and alongside human employees. Cobots are integrated with multiple sensors so that they turn on the brakes and stop all processes when a worker enters the workspace of a machine. This is necessary for safety reasons. Cobots don’t shut down, they only stop for a while, which saves much production time. Collaborative robots are gaining popularity as they are most efficient type of robot in a work situation when people frequently need to approach the machine to perform some operations for a short period of time.
|Read also: IoT and Smart Manufacturing Drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution|
Benefits of Using Robots in Manufacturing
The positive effect from introducing industrial robots can be seen from various perspectives.
1. Optimized Productivity
Robotic equipment can be programmed to operate at a constant optimal speed 24/7 without pauses. As a result, automated machines produce more within a short time as compared with human workers. The remote management facilitates quick settings or fixing of issues. Moreover, the automated equipment is highly customizable and can flexibly switch between tasks, which also improves production efficiencies.
2. Improved Quality
Modern machines eliminate human errors and can provide an almost 100% accuracy, thus improving the quality of the output, which in turn enhances customer satisfaction, as the defective products are not likely to reach end-users.
3. Reduced Costs
Cost-efficiency is one of the most convincing arguments for the union of robotics and manufacturing. There are several points why automation reduces expenses:
- As soon as one robot can replace dozens of workers, factory owners save on employee wages.
- The upfront costs are offset by a quick ROI (return of investment) that can be achieved within two years. This is possible due to increased productivity and higher speed of throughput.
- Robots can work in lights-out conditions and don’t require climate control, thus saving on utilities. Moreover, they contribute to green manufacturing by creating cleaner workspaces.
Business owners and entrepreneurs expect robots to give them more financial mobility to invest in new technologies and developments.
Numerous manufacturing jobs involve greater physical risks and working in harmful conditions. Smart machines replace people in hazardous environments, minimizing workplace injuries and the harmful effect on the health of workers.
High-risk industries such as mining or the production of fertilizers turn to robots to avoid adverse events, ensure the safety of their workers and improve their reputation.
5. New Jobs
In spite of numerous fears that robotization will ruin the labor market, the situation should not be detrimental for human workers. Obviously, an entire class of employees with lower qualifications is under threat of being eliminated. However, we are likely to see an employment shift as new positions are created due to automation. The point is that workers need to retrain or improve their skills to take positions of engineers, programmers, equipment maintenance managers, etc.
In the near future, people will be freed up from demanding physical labor and can maximize their skills in business and creative areas to have a chance to obtain more desirable jobs.
Digital transformation of the manufacturing industry is a kind of industrial revolution, and like any revolution, it comes with both pros and cons. Among the disadvantages of robotization are:
- High initial expenses
- The necessity to reshape the labor market
- Additional burden on the educational system and social organizations
- Changing of the corporate culture at all stages
The Future of Robotics in Manufacturing
It goes without saying that manufacturers should embrace robotics and automation to remain competitive. The process of the introduction of industrial robots into the existing production model, however, is far from easy. Initially, one should decide whether the implementation of robots is really needed and can bring practical advantages. Then, it is required to calculate the expected costs and develop a comprehensive strategy. And only then can you start rebuilding the existing system.
In spite of all hardships, robotization is becoming increasingly popular. The core reasons that influence decision-makers are the reduction of harmful effects on human health and the enhancement of productivity.
SaM Solutions has been providing IT consulting and development services in the international arena for 25 years. Our expertise includes embedded software development for industrial, experimental and scientific equipment. Contact us to learn more on the services we provide and to discuss your requirements.