How Autonomous Machines are Affecting Manufacturing

We’re in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, with the first occurring back in the late 18th-century with factories, the second a little over a century later with the advent of automobiles and the third following the Second World War – computers. Today’s industrial revolution, often called “Industry 4.0” is powered by quickly advancing technology like artificial intelligence, robotics, smart manufacturing, and the Internet of Things (IoTO). Forbes reports that B2B spending on these technologies, solutions and apps will reach $267 billion by 2020.

Love it or hate it, advancing automation equipment is changing the face of manufacturing, some that have already manifested while others expected to come in the near future.

Increasing Working Safety

Many manufacturing jobs like using a plasma cutting table come with high safety risks and can be downright dangerous, depending on the type of products being assembled. Automating the riskiest parts of a job helps to improve worker safety, keeping people out of harm’s way. It also helps the manufacturer stay complaint with OSHA regulations.

The bulk of automation today is typically used for work that would be considered impossible or unsafe for humans, which means automation and robots are a complement to, not a replacement for, human workers.

More, Just Different Jobs

It may seem that nearly every week there’s some new study about how automation, artificial intelligence and robotics is going to destroy jobs. But it may be bringing in more jobs, just different ones. With automation making everyday products more plentiful and less expensive, people increasing shift their spending habits, leaning toward services and other items where there is a connection to a human provider.

Consumers begin to seek out more of a human touch, which means at the same time robots may take manufacturing jobs, the demand for more labor-intensive services is skyrocketing. Think about the rise of Etsy, where the main selling point is products that are made by individuals, and not mass produced.

More and more people are seeking out restaurants that serve farm-to-table dishes where they can feel more connected to farmers, and more intimate wineries where the chance to chat with the winemakers is a big selling point.

Less Human Error and Higher Quality Products

When human workers are involved in producing products that are meant to provide the same, top-notch quality for every item, it just isn’t possible 100% of the time, simply due to the nature of human error. Automation for some tasks removes that from the equation, helping to improve quality.

Increased Production

Due to labor laws and the limitations of humans, there is only so much work any one person can do, but automated equipment can generally work endlessly, with some exception. Machines may be able to work 24 hours, 7 days a week, without the need for a lunch break or shift change.

Healing the Labor Shortage Problem

Many experienced workers in the manufacturing industry are reaching retirement age and there aren’t enough skilled people to replace them, while allowing for future growth. Automation is also changing this by helping to mitigate that effect, performing some of the essential tasks of human laborers.

Author: Brandon Park