Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Backstory: The world of industrial robotics

January 26, 2016
By Simon Drexler Clearpath Robotics

Dec. 2, 2015 – The way automation has transformed over the last decade is by moving from centres focused on mass batch manufacturing to a focus on on-demand manufacturing. Due to the market demand for customization of products, there is a need for SKU proliferation, which in turn leads to a need for more flexible automated solutions within manufacturing.

It’s in every company’s best interest to optimize their operation. Of course, I would suggest the best way to do this is to adapt robotics, but I am slightly biased. In all seriousness, robotics have the capability to help a variety of organizations – across a variety of verticals – transform their operations.

In short, the robotics trends over the past decade have led to smaller, more flexible pieces of automation that are purpose built for specific processes. This allows for more flexibility within the manufacturing process, which means it is more capable of supplying a variety of items. The best example is cellphone manufacturing, where the phones that go to specific regions are all slightly different. Smaller, purpose built automation cells can handle these alternate SKUs, where the automation of yesterday targeted at mass production required more time-consuming tooling changes or manual intervention to accomplish the same task.

The next stage of automation is the continuation of the trend towards purpose-built autonomous solutions: the automation of material transport using self-driving vehicles. The technology has arrived to automate exceptionally complex material handling environments giving organizations the capability to centrally control all material handling inside of their facility. Using self-driving vehicles to automate materials transport will support warehouse employees on the floor with task completion and also enable the human workforce to focus on the complex challenges that humans are good at solving.

Comments by Simon Drexler, director of Indoor Industrial Solutions at Clearpath Robotics. His role focuses on planning and development of future products within robotics automation.


This article was previously published in the October 2015 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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