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Digital transformation in manufacturing: A guide for business pros
- Originally Published:
- May 2019
The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and sophisticated robotics are among the technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This ebook looks at the trends that are enabling industries to streamline operations, improve quality, lower costs, and foster innovation.
From the ebook:
Since the first industrial robot, Unimate, was installed at a GM plant in the 1950s, industrial automation has been associated with big businesses running huge operations that involve massive production lines. The size, shape, and dynamics of industrial robots long reflected this reality. Industrial robots were big, noisy, massively powerful, and required their own cages to keep them well away from human workforces.
A radical transformation in industrial automation has occurred over the past decade, and it’s as much a technological shift as a consequence of the changing economy, one increasingly reliant on small runs, fast shipping, and nimble operations. A new generation of robots reflects these changes. They are quickly deployable, task-agnostic, smaller than their clunky forebears, and can work alongside humans outside of cages.
To be sure, huge companies like Amazon, which acquired logistics robot maker Kiva for a staggering $775 million in 2012, have driven the shift in industrial automation. But the shift toward nimble operations has resulted in the recent development of countless tabletop and mobile robotic platforms that may be surprisingly appealing to a new kind of customer: small and midsize businesses.
The indicators are clear. The fastest growing segment of industrial automation is collaborative robots, so named because they can be deployed to work alongside humans outside of cages. One major supplier, Yaskawa Motoman, estimates that 95 percent of its robotics customers have five or fewer robots. Compare that to the old days of industrial automation when dozens or hundreds of task-specific robots were required to produce a finished product, and you begin to see the magnitude of the shift.
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