Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Robots in Manufacturing

"Robot Resurgence"

Although robots are not new to manufacturing, recent advances in technology and the availability of lower-cost products should expand the use of robotics. Combine these trends with other forces, including scarce labor, worker safety, productivity and ergonomics, and robots may become a stronger force in many areas of manufacturing.

In addition, the growing use of simulation, which simplifies and expedites the programming of robot paths, has accelerated the start-up process -- making robots available to more, and smaller, operations.

However, the greater availability of the technology raises other issues in the manufacturing operation. What cannot be overlooked in new installations is the human factor, especially if the robot will automate a manual operation. Communication and training are essential to defuse employee fears about job loss and ensure worker safety around the robot cell. "The impact of robots will be felt plant-wide," according to Robotics for Senior Management, a paper published by the Robotics Industries Association (Ann Arbor, MI).

With robots playing an important role in how customers receive shipments, many manufacturers are moving to integrate enterprise systems all the way down to the robot level.
Advances in technology have made a higher level of connectivity possible between robot and back-end systems, such as enterprise resource planning or warehouse management.
"The level of data integration inside factories is incredible," says Campbell. "Controller technology now is thoroughly robust and can happily communicate with any level of intelligent device on the floor,"
However, bridging the gap between the manufacturing world and the data world presents new concerns.
In a data-driven system, everything is driven by information moving between databases. As a result, when the data world is integrated with robotics, there have to be contingency and recovery plans for glitches, such as power failures.

"Robot Resurgence" – a Managing Automation� article


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