THE ROLE OF ROBOTS IN MANUFACTURING- WHAT DOES 2023 LOOK LIKE?
The manufacturing industry has a long history of embracing technological innovations to improve its processes, increase efficiency, and reduce costs. Manufacturers have continuously strived to discover more efficient, effective, and cost-effective production methods from the steam engine to computerized automation. Robotics has been a game-changer in the manufacturing industry, allowing for the automation of repetitive and physically demanding tasks that human workers previously did manually. Incorporating robots into manufacturing operations was a revolutionary development that automated complex tasks.
Using robots revolutionises the manufacturing industry by providing a flexible solution to various challenges while enhancing performance, productivity, and work quality. Robots can perform diverse tasks, ranging from moving heavy objects to delicate operations, and can also be programmed to execute repetitive activities like picking and sorting. The ability of robots to carry out these tasks with remarkable accuracy and consistency ensures a consistent and high-quality output.
The manufacturing industry has undergone a complete transformation since the introduction of robotics. Robots provide a unique advantage in warehousing and supply chain operations by creating an efficient operating system that fosters collaboration between people and goods. Robotics can be divided into two categories based on the environment in which they operate: fixed robots and mobile-based robots. Fixed robots are primarily used in manufacturing environments that have a well-defined structure. In contrast, mobile robots are designed for use in changing and ambiguous environments, such as those that involve humans and animals. Industrial robots are specialized to perform specific repetitive tasks, typically manipulating objects or materials already in place.
As technology advances and the labour market changes, it is predicted that the maturing industry will be predominantly dominated by robotics in 2023. Robotics offers significant advantages for businesses, especially considering the shortage of workers in supply chains globally and the increasing demand for faster goods-to-person processes.
By employing robotics, businesses can enhance their operational efficiency, improve productivity, and reduce labour costs, ultimately leading to increased profitability. Additionally, robots can perform physically demanding or potentially hazardous tasks for human workers, thereby reducing the risk of workplace injuries and improving safety. Incorporating robotics into business operations can result in a more competitive and successful business.
Marina Bill, the president of the International Federation of Robotics, states that robots are essential in addressing the changing requirements of manufacturers worldwide. She also highlights that the latest trends in robotics are attracting users from small businesses to large-scale original equipment manufacturers. The global inventory of functioning robots has reached an unprecedented 3.5 million units, with an estimated installation value of 15.7 billion USD.
Top 5 global robotic trends of the manufacturing sector in 2023:
As we move toward the future of the manufacturing industry, it is evident that robots and automation will continue to be significant players. Here are the top 5 global robotic trends shaping the manufacturing sector in 2023.
Collaborative robots (cobots)
Collaborative robots, also known as cobots, differ from traditional industrial robots as they are designed with advanced sensors and software to ensure safe human interaction. They can handle heavy objects such as metals and polymers and can be configured with end-of-arm tooling to automate welding and screw drilling tasks.
Cobots can adapt to changes in the manufacturing process, making them well-suited for small-batch production or tasks that require a high degree of flexibility. Their ability to work alongside human workers also makes them valuable addition to manufacturing processes, as they can improve productivity and safety in the workplace.
More advanced artificial intelligence in robots
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a promising technology for using robotics in the manufacturing industry. This technology benefits manufacturers, logistics providers, and retailers who regularly deal with changing products, orders, and stock levels. The primary goal of incorporating AI is to manage variability and unpredictability in the external environment, either in real-time or off-time. AI-based machine learning is becoming more significant, providing optimized processes, predictive maintenance, and vision-based gripping capability. Using AI, manufacturers can improve their efficiency and productivity while reducing costs and waste.
When operating in an unpredictable environment, AI algorithms offer a fast and cost-effective solution, especially for manufacturers or wholesalers handling millions of products that change regularly. In addition, AI can be highly beneficial in environments where mobile robots must identify and respond differently to objects or people they encounter. Manufacturers can improve operational efficiency, speed, and accuracy by moving AI into robotics. This can result in significant cost savings and a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
3D printing and additive manufacturing
Industry experts predict that the relationship between 3D printing and robotics will continue to strengthen as additive manufacturing gains recognition as an intelligent manufacturing practice for production. While many robotics companies currently incorporate 3D printing into their robot designs, the flexibility and customization offered by 3D printing will be more widely adopted by companies in the coming years.
The combination of additive manufacturing/3D printing and robotics can complement each other to achieve better results, ultimately benefiting customers with more effective robots. The combined use of additive manufacturing/3D printing and robotics can help reduce supply chain costs and lead times by enabling the production of parts on demand and on-site. This technology allows for creating of complex features and structures that would be difficult or impossible to produce with traditional manufacturing methods.
Increased use of robots in the food industry
2023 is predicted to see an increase in the scope of robotics beyond simple task automation, with the development of robots that can cook entire meals from start to finish. Although robots have already been employed in the food industry, they will be increasingly utilized to address the rising demand for fresh, locally-sourced food, automating tasks like harvesting and packaging. These robots will be able to work alongside human employees with greater accuracy and precision, performing tasks such as sorting and picking.
Use of robots in logistics and warehousing
With the growth of e-commerce and online shopping, there is an increasing demand for efficient and fast logistics and warehousing processes. Automation is becoming essential for many manufacturers and logistics companies to meet this demand and improve their operations.
Robots are already used in many manufacturing and logistics facilities for tasks such as picking and packing, palletizing, and transporting goods around the warehouse. These robots can work faster and more accurately than human workers, which can help reduce errors and improve efficiency. They can also work around the clock, increasing productivity and reducing lead times.
Advancements in robotics technology, such as machine learning and computer vision, are making robots even more capable and adaptable to different tasks and environments. This enables manufacturers to automate more processes and optimize their operations further.