Using automation to boost the economy

Automation is a key component of manufacturing and will be vital to the industry's future, but the human element will remain a key component in its growth as the market changes.
By Association for Advancing Automation (A3) March 12, 2017

Automation is a key component of manufacturing and will be vital to the industry's future, but the human element will remain a key component in its growth as the market changes. Courtesy: Ryan Tauss, UnsplashUsing robotic arms during assembly and machine vision to inspect thousands of parts per minute are among the ways U.S. companies use automation to grow. Automation is a key component of manufacturing and will be vital to the industry’s future.

A picture of profitability

Automated processes allow companies to make better and higher quality products with less waste and liability than manufacturing methods that relied heavily on manual labor.

The bottom line component is clear. For example, Integro Technologies, a machine vision integrator, helps install imaging work cells to inspect parts. The company had a client that was producing 1.1 million parts per year and after automating inspection, the throughput increased to six million parts per year.

Profitability benefits all workers. Small-to-medium sized businesses have seen customer demand increase and have needed to hire workers in other areas like logistics and sales support.

Working well with others

Automation complements the skills of highly trained professionals. A 2016 report released by the White House Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy, states that, "Demand for labor will likely increase the most in the areas where humans complement AI-automation technologies."

An example given in the report is that a tool like IBM’s Watson may help with early detection of cancer, but it will take a human healthcare professional to guide a patient through treatment and recovery.

Industrial automation also heightens the job satisfaction of workers who have been trained to supervise robots and while reducing on-the-job injuries. There are concerns that today’s automation will lead to permanent job loss, but history has shown how unforeseen occupations have emerged as technology changed.

Blacksmiths who worked on horse and buggies evolved into mechanics who now maintain cars and may specialize in specific models. While robots may well be a major part of manufacturing’s future, they still need people to maintain them. U.S. companies can now automate and hire locally instead of moving outside the country to find low-cost labor.

Making the grade

The cost and time needed to train staff in robotics, machine vision, or another form of automation may seem daunting, the benefits are well worth it. And even with all of these advances, there will be a need for people who can integrate robotics solutions for companies, troubleshoot and maintain robots, supervise their operation, and collect information in data-driven plants.

This article appeared on the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) website. A3 is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

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