Hirotec on long journey towards lights-out manufacturing with robots from Otto and Yaskawa

“Lights-out manufacturing” is a term to mean the method of making things in a way that’s entirely automated and does not need humans to be involved in the process. 

Of course, humans initially set up the process, build the factory and so on, but the factory which outputs the final product only requires robotics and automation technology.

It’s an idea that has probably been explored in science fiction many times, but in reality, a fully automated factory that needs no human intervention at all is still a distant dream.  Continue reading Hirotec on long journey towards lights-out manufacturing with robots from Otto and Yaskawa

Robots now ‘essential’ to clinical diagnostic labs, says new report

fl smith lab automation
Picture courtesy FL Automation

There is an $8.8 billion market for robotic laboratory automation systems, according to Kalorama Information.

The healthcare research firm just completed a report on lab robots, and notes the imbalance between the high demand for diagnostics and the lack of supply of qualified technicians.

Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama, says: “More than two-thirds of clinical decisions are based on laboratory test results, and new tests are developed constantly.

“But a shrinking field of qualified laboratory personnel, while demand grows requires something to handle the tasks created.”  Continue reading Robots now ‘essential’ to clinical diagnostic labs, says new report

Industrial internet: The latest trends and challenges in systems integration

Systems integration

Nick Boughton, sales manager of Boulting Technology, discusses the challenges connectivity poses for industry, particularly with regard to systems integration and the water industry

Our world is getting smaller every day.

Never before have remote locations been more accessible thanks to communications technology, smartphones and the internet.

Connected devices have infiltrated every aspect of our lives, including the most traditional industry sectors.

One question industry has been unsuccessful in answering refers to the number of connected devices that exist in the world at the moment. Gartner says that by 2020, the Internet of Things will have grown to more than 26 billion units.  Continue reading Industrial internet: The latest trends and challenges in systems integration

Biopharmaceuticals manufacturing: Strict but supple

Robert Harrison, pharmaceutical industry manager of industrial software expert Copa-Data, explains how industrial automation solutions could change the face of biopharmaceutical manufacturing in the years to come

Despite producing innovative drugs that save millions of lives, the pharmaceutical sector is one of the most conservative areas of industry. This cautious approach to new technologies is particularly clear in pharma’s less matured subsectors, including biopharmaceuticals.

Biopharmaceuticals represent the fastest growing sector of the pharmaceutical industry, making up about 20 per cent of the market. Annual growth rates of the biopharma subsector are around eight per cent – double that of more traditional pharmaceutical sectors.  Continue reading Biopharmaceuticals manufacturing: Strict but supple

SAP logistics boss says ‘robotics and automation are the future’

trenitalia

The head of logistics at software giant SAP says the future of the digital supply chain is robotics and automation. 

SAP is one of the world’s largest software companies in any sector, with more than 300,000 clients in around 190 countries, and its logistics division has customers such as luxury automaker Porsche, and large transport operations such as Trenitalia.

In an interview with em360tech.com, Hans Thalbauer, SVP of extended supply chain and IoT at SAP, says industries are becoming smarter because of these technologies.

However, Thalbauer adds that robotics and automation needs to be effectively integrated into the overall business processes, otherwise they won’t work.  Continue reading SAP logistics boss says ‘robotics and automation are the future’

Audi shows off its smart factory technologies

Virtual assembly technology at Audi’s smart factory
Virtual assembly technology at Audi’s smart factory

Audi has been demonstrating its advanced manufacturing technologies, much of which went into building its newly opened smart factory in Mexico, where the automaker’s Q5 vehicle is being produced.  Continue reading Audi shows off its smart factory technologies

Daimler sets its sights on vision of smart factory

Just as the movement control of a games console is able to imitate golf or tennis strokes, virtual assembly installs parts in a vehicle with amazing realism. By testing with an avatar, experienced employees like Jörg-Christof Schmelzer, Process Engineer, can assess how the task at hand might best be carried out
Just as the movement control of a games console is able to imitate golf or tennis strokes, virtual assembly installs parts in a vehicle with amazing realism. By testing with an avatar, experienced employees like Jörg-Christof Schmelzer, process engineer, can assess how the task at hand might best be carried out

At Daimler, the “smart factory” is the centrepiece of the digitalisation of the entire company. In the smart factory, the products, machines and the entire environment are networked with each other and connected to the internet. Integration of the real world into a functional, digital world enables a so-called “digital twin” to be created, which allows the real-time representation of processes, systems and entire production shops.

“Digitalisation enables us to make our products more individual, and production more efficient and flexible. The challenge is to plan for the long term while remaining able to respond rapidly to customer wishes and market fluctuations,” says Markus Schäfer, executive board member Mercedes-Benz cars production and supply chain management.

“The working environment in the automobile industry is facing major and very rapid changes,” says Michael Brecht, chairman of the Daimler works council. “We want to be actively involved in shaping these changes. One key to this is undoubtedly the systematic, far-sighted training of the current and future workforce.”  Continue reading Daimler sets its sights on vision of smart factory

Rewriting the rules: The benefits and challenges of IT/OT convergence

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Martyn Williams, managing director of Copa-Data UK, explains the changing responsibilities of IT and OT

The convergence of industrial automation and communication is an integral part of the growing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). In the modern industrial realm, automation should provide a consistent way of executing tasks and processes – including those usually associated with information technology (IT).

As a result, the operational technology (OT) used to support manufacturing processes is experiencing significant changes.

IT and OT convergence describes the integration of IT systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications, with OT systems, such as Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA).

Traditionally, IT and OT have remained two separate silos, maintaining independent protocols, standards and governance models. However, for companies pursuing operational effectiveness, increased profits and growth, the convergence of these two systems is a no brainer.  Continue reading Rewriting the rules: The benefits and challenges of IT/OT convergence

Automation fails without aligning materials support function with demand, says Synchrono

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By Thomas R. Cutler

Robot-to-person solutions are on a rapid trajectory for 2017 and beyond. Yet discrete manufacturing organizations which initiate material replenishment automation programs without properly analyzing processes and priorities for internal and external stakeholders, find far less value than anticipated.

Manufacturers are unsure about current replenishment capabilities within ERP (enterprise resource planning) and other systems, and are even less clear whether to fix, buy, or build a solution to gain the capabilities needed.

Too often disruptions in leadership and a change-averse environment can create barriers to improved production flow and automating processes.

The manufacturing sector is well-served when considering whether a replenishment solution can enhance flow and enable continuous improvements; often best practice robotic solutions follow.  Continue reading Automation fails without aligning materials support function with demand, says Synchrono

A brief history of smart factories and new gadgets available to today’s manufacturers

ubisense

Jay Cadman, of Ubisense, talks about the history of smart factories and the new products today that are enabling many more businesses to realise the benefits of real-time location systems 

While the phrase “smart factory” is relatively recent, first coined at The Hanover Fair in 2011, the concept has been talked about in various forms for the past 30 years. And at Ubisense we’ve been creating smart factories for some of the world’s leading manufacturers in the automotive and discrete industries for more than a decade.

Ubisense’s Smart Factory product was originally designed to specifically help vehicle original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) tackle the challenges of managing ever increasing levels of complexity in assembly lines brought about by mass-customisation.

By placing ultra-wideband (UWB) tags on tools and mounting networked UWB sensors around the factory, we can locate and make sense of thousands of objects in a factory in real-time.  Continue reading A brief history of smart factories and new gadgets available to today’s manufacturers

CeMAT theme to be smart supply chain solutions

cemat

CeMAT Update

Automatic guided vehicles that optimize their own routes. Warehouses that automatically recognize missing inventory and order refills in real time. Systems that develop into complete service providers, thanks to innovative IT. CeMAT 2016 brings all the fascinating trends in intralogistics together at the same time and place.

The future belongs to the Smart Factor – but only after perfectly integrated logistics processes create the necessary preconditions. This makes the intelligent control of inventory flows an absolute must.

Manufacturers, dealers, service providers: All of these are on the lookout for new technologies and ideas. And CeMAT is the only place that brings together groundbreaking solutions for the entire supply chain – under the keynote heading of Smart Supply Chain Solutions.   Continue reading CeMAT theme to be smart supply chain solutions

CeMAT 2016 puts spotlight on digitization and automation

cemat preview

CeMAT, which describes itself as the world’s leading tradeshow for intralogistics and supply chain management, expects to attract more than 1,000 exhibitors from around the globe 

Logistics is as complex as it sounds, and CeMAT, which takes place from31 May to 3 June, aims to explain all the latest developments.

Numerous individual elements come together in logistics to make a functioning whole, as increasingly dynamic production and logistics processes become ever more closely intertwined.

Anyone who wants to compete successfully in the logistics growth market needs to consistently update their own holistic concepts and systems for optimized material and information flows – with an emphasis on solutions.  Continue reading CeMAT 2016 puts spotlight on digitization and automation

Watson gets a job in management consulting with KPMG

ibm

KPMG and IBM have signed a deal to apply IBM’s Watson cognitive computing technology to KPMG’s management consultancy services.

The agreement, including a focus on auditing services, builds on several recent KPMG initiatives that the companies say demonstrate the promise of cognitive technologies in transforming the firm’s ability to deliver innovative and enhanced business services.

“The cognitive era has arrived,” said Lynne Doughtie, KPMG chairman and CEO. “KPMG’s use of IBM Watson technology will help advance our team’s ability to analyze and act on the core financial and operational data so central to the health of organizations and the capital markets.

“In addition to the unprecedented possibilities for enhancing quality, the potential for cognitive and related technologies to help us pursue new business offerings is extraordinary.”   Continue reading Watson gets a job in management consulting with KPMG

It’s not just factory jobs the robots are after – it’s your intellectual jobs too

industrial revolution

Automation technologies such as the Jacquard loom were ubiquitous in the 1800s during the first industrial revolution. Such machines eliminated some of the most tedious and time-consuming jobs from factories, and raised production to record levels. 

Then, in the mid-1900s, the robotic arm was invented. Like the loom, that too is a machine ubiquitous in the contemporary industrial landscape. And with the advent of computing, robotics and automation systems have been increasingly integrated into self-contained production systems, controlled through what might now be considered rudimentary forms of artificial intelligence.

That integration process is still ongoing, but meanwhile a number of new technologies have emerged – particularly in computing and networking – which are combining to form trends that are themselves coalescing. Experts are now encapsulating all these technologies, trends and developments into a relatively new catch-all term – Industry 4.0.

One of the key features of Industry 4.0 is, arguably, the gradual encroachment of AI into what used to be considered jobs that only humans could do – the robots were supposedly not clever enough. The common misconception was that computer-controlled robotics and automation systems can only perform simple manual labour tasks.

While this may be true to a large extent, Moravec’s paradox shows that this is not the whole story, and that, in fact, computers are more suited to high-level intellectual jobs. Which seems obvious when you think about it, or get your robot to think about it. However, neither the hardware nor the software has been available to demonstrate the implications of the paradox on a large scale, until now.

Alexander Khaytin, chief operating officer, Yandex Data Factory
Alexander Khaytin, chief operating officer, Yandex Data Factory

At least some of these views are shared by Alexander Khaytin, chief operating officer at the Yandex Data Factory. According to Khaytin, the gradual move to Industry 4.0 requires rethinking of the full implications of new, artificial intelligence-based technologies.

In exclusive comments to Robotics and Automation News, Khaytin makes the observation that many intellectual tasks are already undertaken by AI systems.

“When we talk about automation, it is often associated with robots performing manual tasks, replacing humans on the assembly line and so on,” says Khaytin.  Continue reading It’s not just factory jobs the robots are after – it’s your intellectual jobs too

‘Less than 10 per cent of business processes will rely on paper by 2018’, say bosses

xerox

Around 90 per cent of all business processes will be paperless within the next two years, according to a new survey. And the irony is that Xerox, a name synonymous with photocopying on paper, aims to boss the digital market. 

Xerox has introduced workflow automation services as part of its managed print services offering to “lead the way to greater productivity and digital transformation”. The company is also developing robotic process automation tools throughout its portfolio to support its full line of business – including customer care centers, finance and accounting processes and the healthcare sector.

Data is the lifeblood of business today, and it’s not easy digging through it to uncover insightful, actionable intelligence. That’s one takeaway from the survey of 600 IT decision-makers in large US, Canadian and Western European organizations. The Digitization at Work report from Xerox shows the move from paper to digital processes is nearly upon us, however, many survey respondents admit they may not be ready for it.  Continue reading ‘Less than 10 per cent of business processes will rely on paper by 2018’, say bosses