Industrial Robots and Workplace Automation – Magoda – Manufacturing America
Industrial robots and automation at work
Once considered science fiction, factory robots are now a reality for many industrial manufacturing companies around the world. In some cases, today’s industrial robots work in tandem with their human counterparts, and Internet connectivity has created new opportunities to network industrial robotic equipment like never before.
While some machines operate autonomously, others are connected to an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). This network encompasses all connected equipment at an industrial site and can include everything from summoning belts and scanners to microwaves in the break room. Using this network, continuous monitoring can be performed remotely and automatic alerts can be generated regarding changing conditions that require the attention of maintenance personnel or field workers.
Growing industry investment in assembly robots
Due to the rapidly accelerating growth of the industry, investment in industrial robotics has seen an increase of nearly 20% year-over-year from 2021. While the automotive sector has traditionally been an industry of interest for integrating robotics, non-automotive manufacturing sectors that include metals and pharmaceuticals have seen a huge increase in investment in robotics in recent years. Individual investments and investments made through various index funds have also received a lot of attention on Wall Street as robotics continues to push the boundaries of what is possible.
From the industrial robotic arm to the autonomous collaborator
The history of robotics in manufacturing dates back to the Industrial Revolution; however, the idea of self-contained machines being used to assist with work has been around for thousands of years. Simple machines, including wedges, pulleys and wheels, have been part of manufacturing and production in agricultural and industrial societies for thousands of years.
With the implementation of electricity in machinery as well as fuel sources including petroleum-based products, production machinery became more complex, but limitations still existed on the number of tasks that could be performed. In most cases, a machine can be powered up and physically positioned to repeat a task without any type of input or programming. An operator may have been placed to initiate an action from a machine, but the machine itself was simple in design and performance.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that industrially manufactured robots really started to become commonplace when General Motors began using robotic arms to handle tasks such as welding and assembly. With the introduction of semiconductors and the ability to program robots, modern robotic equipment in industrial environments can be tasked with everything from measuring minute distances to extracting valuable materials.
Artificial intelligence is in the spotlight in industrial robotics
Despite the mechanics behind making robots and similar autonomous factory machines, artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be where the real potential for the future of robotics lies. Artificial intelligence technology allows machines to learn tasks and navigate environments based on a set of variables. Instead of simply programming a machine to perform a task, robots can now be programmed to figure out how to perform tasks when variables change.
This adaptive technology has been used in everything from autonomous factory vehicles to automated robots used for quality assurance. It is believed that as AI technology becomes more firmly established among professionals in warehousing, mining, transportation and manufacturing, robots will become even more useful in industrial settings.
America is hiring a record number of robots
It’s also worth noting that in 2021 alone, nearly 40,000 new autonomous robots were “hired” to fill positions at industrial sites across America. The placement of robots in jobs considered tedious or dangerous to humans has led to increased productivity in many industries, and growth forecasts appear to be optimistic.
The news, however, is not all good. Some opponents of robots in the workplace believe that a growing reliance on automation will mean less job availability. This is of particular concern in industries where repetitive tasks or unskilled labor is required. The fear is that robotic equipment eliminates the need for human intervention and could lead to a significant reduction in manpower.
The Integration of Factory Robots and the Future of Self-Employed Workers
It remains to be seen how these objections affect the global workforce, but there is no doubt that robots are here to stay. As with any major overhaul of technological innovations, employers, workers and industries will adapt, but the timing of this adaptation will likely depend on economic forces rather than social campaigns.
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