Man and Machine Working Together to Realize Smart Manufacturing


Manufacturing is at a turning point due to evolving market dynamics and recent technological breakthroughs. Increasing product individualization, shorter product life cycles, and product and market complexities are creating difficult challenges for manufacturers. At the same time increasing automation, digital transformation, and IoT are bringing together the physical and digital environments. Manufacturers are caught between today’s traditional processes/systems and the future of Smart Manufacturing, which many believe will bring about the next industrial revolution, Industry 4.0.

The catalysts for realizing Smart Manufacturing include technologies such as AI, IoT, cloud computing, big data, cybersecurity, and advanced robotics. Coming from a robotics company I want to share how robots are breaking out of their cages to work alongside their human co-workers in order to help companies realize Smart Manufacturing. These new robots called cobots (collaborative robots) are designed to work seamlessly with people, performing complex manufacturing tasks by sensing and adapting to their environment. They are moveable, flexible, easy to use, and intended to assist, not replace a human worker.

This new smart machine no longer requires engineers for programming; the operator can program through hand guiding. It also requires a smaller footprint with fewer environmental restrictions allowing the cobot to be just another member of the team, elevating the contribution and value of their human co-workers by taking care of the work nobody else enjoys doing. The challenge is analyzing and determining how to create the new paradigms for the division of labor, the Human-Robot Collaboration or HRC.

Combine these robotic attributes with AI, IoT, and deep learning into our plants and factories and we are creating smart production lines where material input, layout changes, and optimization can be achieved according to product type and quantity. It is truly exciting to think about the changes we are going to experience as Smart Manufacturing progresses, and as IT professionals we are going to be integral to the journey. Forward-thinking IT leaders that create implementation strategies and begin to act now can help their companies stay ahead of the competition, reaping the benefits of the Smart Manufacturing future.