Robotics in manufacturing automation has arrived. According to Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), 59% of manufacturers are already using some type of robotics in their operations. The day may soon come when the new hire isn’t named Jane or Joe but HAL, as in the computer from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Robots are changing how manufacturers run their operations and manage their warehouses.
Robots Adding to, Not Replacing, the Human Elements
We often think of robotics in manufacturing as it pertains to the automotive industry. Films showing robotic arms welding parts onto cars, spraying paint on the exterior of automotive parts, and performing simple assembly-line tasks are firmly entrenched in the imagination.
Robotics are now used in food, beverage, and life sciences manufacturing to perform tasks requiring dexterity that people just don’t have. Humans are great at problem-solving and creativity, but when it comes to manipulating tiny objects or keeping an environment sterile, it’s nearly impossible for people to compete with robots. In such cases, robotics adds to a manufacturer’s capabilities. People and machines can work together for enhanced productivity and profitability.
New Job Opportunities in Manufacturing Automation
As newer, robotics-fueled systems are added to the workplace, more jobs will be created, according to PwC. People will be needed to program, troubleshoot, and engineer robotics and robotics-powered systems. One-third of U.S. manufacturers agreed that more jobs will be created thanks to the surge in robotics in the manufacturing environment.
A New Generation of Robotics
The new generation of robotics entering the manufacturing scene are lighter, smarter, and more flexible than their predecessors. These new robots can work independently on tasks or perform partial tasks so that people can finish them.
Older generation robots were so large that it was dangerous to walk near them. Plants that used them had “robot only” zones and safety concerns about humans working alongside such machinery. With the new smaller, lightweight robotics entering the manufacturing plant, there’s less danger of injury to people working alongside the equipment. This has led to new and innovative ways of using robotics including:
- Assembling consumer electronics, semi-conductors, and circuit boards.
- Fabric creation.
- Pattern cutting, sewing, and garment creation.
- Driving screws into engines and machinery, especially in small spaces hard for people to reach.
- Assembly of household products such as dishwashers and refrigerators.
- Life sciences, including assembly and fabrication of medical equipment and devices.
- Applying coatings to items, which reduces the risk of people being exposed to chemical fumes.
Hal Sirkin, a Chicago-based consultant quoted in the Wall Street Journal, believes that robotics will change the economics of manufacturing for the better. Low-cost, repetitive tasks can be automated, leaving people to work at higher-paying jobs and at tasks where human ingenuity excel.
Is Manufacturing Robotics in Your Future?
Of course, robotics may be at your plant already, or it may be in your future. Each manufacturing facility must make smart decisions about when it makes sense to upgrade and when it makes sense to continue using manual labor.
One way in which you can more easily assess the costs and benefits of upgrading to robotics is by studying the data from your current ERP systems. Software such as Sage 300 ERP enables you to assess product and labor costs, turnaround time, and other factors affecting manufacturing. With accurate, timely data at your fingertips, you can determine when and if switching to a robotics-based plant is right for your company.
Better Warehouse Management with PositiveVision
PositiveVision provides consulting and services to warehousing and distribution companies. We can help your warehouse run more efficiently and provide you with the right tools to gather accurate and timely data. With the right data, you can better manage your business. Learn more on our website or contact us today.