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article imageRobotic automation will become bigger in 2019 and beyond

By Tim Sandle     Oct 17, 2018 in Business
A new report, surveying the transformative trends across industry, foresees a big increase in robots and automation. This is being driven by lower-cost and more flexible technologies.
Robots are increasingly being used across industry in order to make the repetitive and high-volume tasks easier. Robots don’t tire and they are easier to instruct. Advances in robotic technology and in computing have made robots easier to program. Furthermore, the act of reprogramming introduces a level of flexibility that can’t be as easily introduced in relation to people.
According to a new report from the International Federation of Robots (titled “Robotics 2019”), the use of robots will increase across industry in 2019 and beyond. This mirrors a review by McKinsey titled “The great re-make: Manufacturing for modern times”.
These reviews indicate that many manufacturing firms have turned to robotics and the implementation of automation technologies looks set to grow. The biggest growth area will be China which will have 40 percent of total worldwide robotic sales by 2019, an increase from 27% percent in 2015. Furthermore, the number of industrial robots in china will increase tenfold to 1.8 million units by 2025.
The International Federation of Robots report also finds that as robot production has increased, the costs associated with producing robots have fallen. Taking the past thirty years into consideration, the typical price of a robot has dropped by 50 percent in real terms. Moreover, these costs have fallen considerably in comparison to labor costs, especially in higher-income countries.
Taking some examples of industries where robots are making an impact, outside of China, include:
As an example of the vehicle production sector, BMW may well employ over 7,000 people at its large factory complex in Spartanburg, Germany, there are not many human operators to be found working on the X5/X6 line. Here around 380 robots beaver away constructing X5 vehicle bodies, which are composed of 443 separate pieces of metal. This requires the robots to perform 237 stud welds and about 6,000 spot welds for each one. A few years ago this process was a manual operation; now it is 100 percent completed by robots.
In pharmaceuticals one application of robotics is with pick-and-place operations, which involves moving from one machine to another or moving an item in and out of storage, according to Darrell Paul, market manager of Robotics and Motion at Omron Automation Americas, speaking with Pharmaceutical Technology magazine. An example is with tray-stacking applications. Here a robot can load a tray of items and calibrate the depth of the tray using 3D optical technology.
At a Philips plant producing electric razors in the Netherlands robots now carry out the bulk of the activities. This is to the extent that robots now outnumber the nine production workers on excess of 14 to 1. Automation leads to a range of different products and a flexible approach to manufacturing. The Amsterdam-based multinational makes over 60 shaver lines and 600 models of electric razors.
The economic consequences of an increase in robotics inevitably leads to a reduction in manual labor, leading to cost savings but placing the potential future burden of unemployment tin some areas upon society. The rise of automation is something that governments needs to contend with and to plan for.
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