Towards Hyper-Optimal Manufacturing Efficiency with Robotics Technology
Manufacturing | 5 min READ
This article was originally published in Manufacturing Today India  - Source link
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Characterized by a fabric of emerging technologies and their capability to eliminate existing challenges that face the manufacturing industry, Industry 4.0 technologies are already inching the manufacturing industry toward its glory.
Ganesan Karuppanaicker
Ganesan Karuppanaicker

Vice President, Global Delivery Head

Digital Transformation


In the post-2020 world, almost all manufacturing companies have set out towards their Industry 4.0 transformations. In this process, robotic technology gains traction on the production floors and drives efficiency and outputs toward hyper-optimal levels.
Industry 4.0 Obliterates Legacy Challenges
Robotics has seen widespread interest and adoption in the manufacturing industry since the 90s. However, legacy robotics was challenged by networking technologies and computing paradigms that were still in their infancy. Industrial Revolution 4.0 brings a cluster of advanced networking technologies like 5G and Wifi 6, in conjunction with the shift of computing power to the edge has given rise to advanced robotics, bringing greater mobility, adaptability, and orchestration speed with productivity enhancements in manufacturing operations. Moreover, maturing AI applications, widening IIoT networks, and better machine-to-machine communication with well-defined protocols also paves the way for human-machine collaboration.
In sum, advancements within the Industry 4.0 paradigm afford significant possibilities for industrial robotics. Across sophisticated repetitive processes that require cognitive inputs, one bot will account for 2.8 FTE hours on the production floor. No wonder that over 52% of companies expect the number of employees on the production floor to drop by at least 5% by 2025.
Robotics in Manufacturing: Implementation and Implications
Advanced robotics brings numerous benefits that legacy robotics technology is failing to deliver in the context of today’s challenges of the manufacturing industry.
For instance, today's robotic technology enables manufacturers to easily configure and reconfigure their bots for a greater degree of customization of manufactured items. It lends a greater degree of customizability and changes in the production line. With onboard intelligence and cloud-based workflow control, advanced robotics makes actuators more autonomous and manufacturing operations more agile, less human intervention-dependent, and more efficient than ever before.
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Here are some of the major types of robots that are being leveraged to automate processes within manufacturing facilities:
  • Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs): AGVs are driverless vehicles and drones that enable automated or human-driven remote inspection and autonomous intra-facility logistics. AGVs are integrated with ERPs, manufacturing operations technology, and inventory management systems to keep the production line running smoothly
  • Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs):AMRs are increasingly exhibiting more stable mobility across surfaces and automate highly repetitive functions such as picking, sorting, carrying, packaging, stacking, and replenishment of items on the production line
  • Articulated Robots/Robotic Arms:Robotic arms have been a critical element of the assembly process and have taken on welding tasks for a few decades now. However, today’s articulated robots exhibit negligible micro stops, greater precision, and consistency, and multiple rotary joints bring more excellent dexterity and adaptability to the assembly line
  • Collaborative Robots (Cobots):Cobots are essentially designed to operate safely alongside human presence within facilities. In production environments, cobots generally take on low-cognition and repetitive tasks, while human workers shift their focus on exceptions and high-cognition functions
  • Humanoid Robots: Humanoid robots come in human-like form factor, and consequently, can be configured to perform most tasks that humans can by leveraging the suitable algorithms and onboard intelligence, sensors, and actuators that help the robot replicate muscle-like movements. Humanoid robots are already being used in hazardous and high-risk conditions and across assembly lines in the automotive manufacturing industry
Leading manufacturers now use various types of robots on the production floor to orchestrate manufacturing operations in unison.
For instance, humanoid robots can open and close vertical doors for AMRs in controlled environments, robotic arms can be installed and integrated with AGVs to bring better load/unload capabilities, and integration of smart vision powered bots with the organization’s IT systems such as ERP, logistics, inventory management, and operational technology interfaces enable operators to orchestrate manufacturing remotely.
Towards hyper-optimal manufacturing efficiency with robotics technology
At the same time, each piece of item in the factory is accounted for and synchronized automatically within the IT environment, thereby creating an accurate, real-time picture of the manufacturing facility within IT systems.
The IT and OT systems must be modernized to achieve such seamless IT/OT interface and advanced, end-to-end automation capabilities. The IT teams must move outside their office walls to provide the proper technological groundwork for experimenting with use cases and scaling successful ones at pace. This is a crucial symptom of success with robotic technology in the manufacturing landscape.
Towards Industry-Leading Efficiency Levels with Robotics
Robotic technology presents a significant opportunity for manufacturers that have embarked on the Industry 4.0 journey, especially as many use cases can be self-funded and typically help with quick recovery of investments.
Towards hyper-optimal manufacturing efficiency with robotics technology
Here are some of the top benefits of robotics adoption for manufacturers:
  • Robots enable manufacturing facilities to operate round the clock while subtracting repetitive tasks from the job list of onsite workers
  • Automation represents an output maximization opportunity while orchestrating manufacturing operations with greater resilience during labor outages and manufacturing at lower costs and higher productivity levels
  • When onsite robots are fully integrated with the IT and OT systems, manufacturers can raise RoI by over 50%
  • Robots can take on hazardous tasks in risky environments and help improve safety levels for workers on the site. Cobots are also instrumental in creating a safe environment for human-machine collaboration on the production floor
  • Lastly, robotic technology is being offered within as-a-service models, thereby enabling manufacturers to decommission bots and recommissioning them as market conditions result in demand spikes
Moving Forward
Moving forward in the decades ahead, robotics technology is primed to see many key advancements. Functional safety, security, manageability, and trustworthiness will be critical factors in the increased and widespread adoption of robotics technology in the manufacturing industry. While technology has always been an enabler, its success is drawn forward by its inclusive adoption across industries.
The benefits of robotics technology are huge and can provide leverage towards a transformational culture within global enterprises. As advancements in AI bring greater intelligence to robots, adaptation to changes will become easier to handle, and human-machine collaboration will see greater safety levels.
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