How far has advanced robotics transformed the manufacturing and construction industries?

It used to be that the automotive industry was the only one using advanced robotics. But now, it has permeated various industrial sectors, extending its reach to working in construction.

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Advanced Robotics Boost Competitive Edge
Based on a report released by Pricewaterhouse Cooper in collaboration with the Manufacturing Institute in October this year, the manufacturing companies across all industries have shown efforts and activities leading to the adoption of industrial advanced robotics to gain a competitive advantage. Out of the 120 manufacturers surveyed, 59% are currently using some form of robotic technology in their manufacturing processes.

Since its emergence in the market, robotics and other forms of automation have successfully delivered on the promises of:

  • Speed
  • Efficiency
  • Productivity

From Simple Mechanical Machine To Smarter And Faster Workforce
Industrial robots have evolved from simply mechanical into smarter, faster and more affordable workforce in manufacturing settings. They have been developed with more advanced capabilities including dexterity, memory, sensing, and trainability, according to the PwC report, “The New Hire: How a New Generation of Robots is Transforming Manufacturing.” To date, about 1.5 million industrial robots are spread in various manufacturing facilities worldwide making experts project that the global industrial market will reach $41 billion by 2020.

More than 1.5 million industrial robots are spread in various manufacturing facilities around the world.

Advanced Integration Of Robotics In Manufacturing Sector
Bob McCutcheon, the US industrial products leader of PwC explains that the manufacturing industry is now primed to embrace a more advanced integration of robotics. The speed at which manufacturers allow robotics to permeate their production floors continues to rise with every dollar spent in investing in these new technologies. McCutcheon observes that it is an ongoing progression toward the “factory of the future’ where 3D printing and robotics (disruptive technologies) are able to significantly improve quality, operations and efficiency.

Japanese Automakers Started It All
It’s a known fact that Japanese automakers such as Toyota have pioneered and deployed industrial robotics in their production plants, with the European and North American counterparts following thereafter. The entry of industrial robotics in the auto manufacturing sector had significantly increased production rate in manufacturing areas where human labor is restricted in speed.

The combination of industrial robots and human laborers in a manufacturing facility had improved productivity performance of various automakers. Even the simple task of the placement of steel medium carbon washers has reached a certain level of precision in a speed that’s not matched by human counterparts.

Robotics Used In Other Industries
But the use of industrial robots had spread to other industries including consumer goods, metals industries, food and beverage, and life sciences – pharmaceutical and biomedical. From the data of the Robotics Industries Association (RIA), there are currently about 230,000 robots used in several US factories. According to Jeff Burnstein, president of the RIA, new significant technologies have been launched and adopted in the robotics field over the past several years, including:

  • Simpler user interfaces
  • Improved gripper technology
  • Enhanced vision-guided systems
  • Ability to handle more complex and intricate tasks

In some industries, the industrial robots are the ones doing jobs that are dangerous, dirty and boring. Burnstein cites a Baltimore company that employs robots to bend wire baskets – previously done by hand by human workers, producing about 300 baskets a day. When the robots started doing the job, they produced thousands in a day, with higher quality and no injuries to workers.

Advanced Robotics To Respond To Mandate Of Customization
The integration of smarter and faster robots comes at a time when the majority of the companies – aerospace, defense, medical devices and consumer products, are under increasing pressure to quickly respond to customer expectations and preferences. With the enhanced speed of robots, manufacturers are able to set up in the shortest time possible.

With the robot’s advanced capabilities, manufacturers are able to cater to the mandate of customization. The factory of the future is that highly-automated company that can be flexible enough to quickly and cost-effectively change setup to fabrications of different variations on the same product. Manufacturing plants that are able to adapt to making different products in an incredibly short time frame are in the run for competitive edge.

Robotics Adopted In The Construction Industry
Robots are steadily making their way into the construction and building industries. Some companies have started employing robots to build and prefabricate building components in a radically reduced production time. For the industry, builders can expect to reduce costs, increase speed and enhance safety in construction projects. In 2012, a private Chinese construction company used robotics to prefabricate entire floors of the project and was able to complete a 30-story hotel structure in an unprecedented short construction time of 15 days.

In view of the above, are the other industries both in manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors robotics-ready?

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