MAR-APR 2018

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The "human touch" revolution is now under way By Esben H. Østergaard, PhD A t HANNOVER MESSE 2017, like most industrial trade shows, the predomi - nant theme was Industry 4.0. Although Industry 4.0 still has not scaled up to cover a significant percentage of manufacturing setups, its vision of near-total automation—and the re sulting cost savings—has clearly captured the industry's imagination. More importantly, even though the "lights- out" factory is still a rare phenomenon, the con - nected automation technologies that form the backbone of Industry 4.0 are being widely and increasingly deployed. They are making impor - tant differences in the manufacture of many types of products and, in industries like health - care, even the provision of services. Role of robots The use of robots in manufacturing has been on the rise since the 1960s, when they were first introduced as part of what technologists call Industry 3.0 (defined by programmable logic and advanced manufacturing). Robots grew up in the car industry, where they were used primarily to weld car bodies together. As technologies matured, companies began using robots in other areas, such as logistics and the medical and food industries. Starting in 2006, more robots were used outside the automotive industry than inside it. The main driver behind the rise of industrial robots was a desire to reduce or eliminate the "three Ds"—dull, dangerous, and dirty jobs. But other important drivers included the need for consistency of quality and consistency of flow in manufacturing. Today, robots are used not just in huge manu- facturing and logistics facilities, but—thanks to the advent of smaller, more affordable, and easy-to-use collaborative robots ("cobots")—in small and medium-sized businesses too. The benefits of robotic automation include: l Robots improve the consistency of product quality and production line flow, meeting de- mand for high-quality products at lower cost. l They save workers from having to perform re- petitive, tedious, and dangerous tasks. l Today's connected, or Industry 4.0, robots are able to consistently generate data on parts flow and process quality—data that artificial intelligence or old-school data analysis can use to optimize both a factory and manufac- turing processes. l Thanks to greater inherent flexibility than special machines or other hard automation, robots enable greater product variation on a single line and—when integrated with logis- tics systems in Industry 4.0 setups—enable factories to produce variants based on the customer's choice of preconfigured options 22 INTECH MARCH/APRIL 2018 WWW.ISA.ORG 5.0 Welcome to Industry

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