Robots are ready to populate smart factories
Robots’ use is growing rapidly, and robots are smarter and more integrated. Branislav Lacko, a member of the Czech-Moravian Automation Association, said, "We can expect an exponential growth of robotics in the coming weeks and months," in his opening speech at the Robotization and Automation Trends 2016 conference. He has good reason to be optimistic. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), there are 1.7 million industrial robots installed in today’s factories with 230,000 installed in the last year alone and 15% annual growth expected. As more industrial robots are being installed, they’re also getting smarter.
Robots in the smart factory
In Europe, there is a noticeable trend towards using smart industrial robots within Industrie 4.0 cyber systems. Many new robots today are created with the purpose of working side-by-side with humans. Collaborative robots on display at the conference are one way Industrie 4.0 is being implemented. Other highlights included robots manufacturing Rolex watches with precise movements.
High-quality robots that can work alongside humans as well as make sophisticated items are needed to make smart factories and Industrie 4.0 work. However, beyond manufacturers, system integrators are needed to help the elements of future smart factories work.
Miroslav Rumpel from Elcom a.s., which is aiming to bridge the gap between various vendors, said, "Future-proof and original integration of the best available automation is the key for manufacturing’s future."
Cost of robot labor vs. humans
Another highlight of the conference was a presentation by Tomáš Posekaný, from Škoda Auto, a Czech car manufacturer, who described the methods for planning robotic manufacturing. While robotic expansion has social and economic impacts, Posekaný said wider use of robotics reflects the evolving structure in a society where no advanced manufacturing plant can succeed without increasing the level of automation. Despite the impacts in the employment area, comparing the hourly rate calculation for robot operation versus hourly costs per employee shows a vast difference. While a robot will take about $6 per hour from the budget, human labor would cost $14 per hour for the same amount of work, proving that the industry in the future will undoubtedly rely on industrial robots. The advantages of automated workplaces start to overshadow the trade unions’ voices, even as smart factories and Industrie 4.0 become more prevalent in Europe’s economy.
Lukáš Smelík is managing director of Control Engineering Czech Republic. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, Control Engineering, email@example.com.
- Industrial robots being made today are influenced by smart factories and Industrie 4.0.
- In Europe, smart industrial robots are being used more and more within Industrie 4.0 cyber systems.
- Advanced manufacturing needs automation to increase.
What additional impact will smart factories and Industrie 4.0 have on the labor market in Europe?
Is it better to have a competitive smart factory using robotics and Industrie 4.0 or an uncompetitive factory that goes out of business and employs no one?
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