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Opinion: Adding the human edge and augmenting automation through Industry 5.0 in manufacturing

Adam Sobieski, regional president APAC at Universal Robots

The Fourth Industrial Revolution brought about a wave of automation in the manufacturing industry, leading to increased efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

While we are currently living in Industry 4.0 which is unfolding around us, the world is poised for the next big industrial leap – the fifth industrial revolution.

The industry is slowly moving towards Industry 5.0, which marks a shift from automation to collaboration. Before diving into the details of Industry 5.0, it is important to understand the industry of today and how manufacturing has been changed through automation.

Industry 4.0 and its Impact on Manufacturing

Industry 4.0 has been a game-changer for the manufacturing industry. It represents the convergence of disruptive digital technologies that has helped revolutionise the manufacturing sector.

This movement has gained significant traction due to several key factors aligning, such as innovative modes of human-machine interaction and advancements in production methods through technologies like advanced robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 3D printing.

In turn, manufacturers have been able to automate various processes, reduce costs, and improve productivity.

Despite being amid Industry 4.0, it has been projected to drive productivity gains on par with those witnessed during the Industrial Revolution with the advent of the steam engine.

On a global scale, it is anticipated to generate gains ranging from $1.2 trillion to $3.7 trillion.

Within the ASEAN region, which encompasses economies with substantial manufacturing sectors, the potential for productivity enhancements is estimated at a value between $216 billion and $627 billion.

With such success and a growing market, why then is there a lookahead to the next industrial revolution?

The Emergence of Industry 5.0 and its Significance for Manufacturers

Industry 5.0’s emergence is in response to the limitations of Industry 4.0, which relied heavily on automation and neglected the human element of manufacturing.

Focused on collaboration between humans and machines, it recognises the importance of human creativity and problem-solving skills in manufacturing processes and aims to create a system where humans and machines work together seamlessly.

It is expected to benefit manufacturers in various ways:

1. Putting People First

Industry 5.0 shifts the perspective back to individuals, recognising them as valuable assets instead of mere resources. In essence, this implies a departure from the conventional idea of people serving organisations to organisations serving people.

Rather than solely utilising talent to gain a competitive edge and create value for customers, Industry 5.0 also prioritises generating additional value for employees, aiming to attract and retain top-notch staff.

2. Enhancing Resilience

With increasing interconnectedness across the globe, there are far-reaching impacts of global events like the Covid-19 pandemic and disruptions in international supply chains.

While many businesses focus on enhancing efficiency and maximising profits, these factors alone do not cultivate resilience.

In fact, there is a belief that an excessive emphasis on agility and flexibility undermine a company’s resilience. Resilient organisations would proactively anticipate and respond to crises, ensuring stability even during challenging times.

By prioritising adaptability and responsiveness, these organisations can weather uncertainties and maintain their stability.

3. Sustainability

Industry 5.0 takes sustainability to the next level by going beyond just reducing, minimising, or mitigating climate damage.

Instead, it actively strives to make a positive impact and create meaningful change. This concept, also known as “Net Positive”, aims to transform companies from being part of the problem to becoming part of the solution.

It goes beyond superficial gestures and empty promises of sustainability, known as ‘greenwashing,’ and instead focuses on making a genuine difference in the world.

Collaborative Automation and Industry 5.0

Collaborative automation is an essential cog to Industry 5.0, as it enables humans and machines to work together seamlessly.

For one, collaborative robots (cobots) are designed to take on repetitive and dangerous tasks, allowing humans to focus on tasks that require human skills like critical thinking and problem-solving.

Cobots can also be programmed to work on different tasks capable of working on different applications throughout the factory floor, making them versatile and adaptable to changing manufacturing needs.

Compared to industrial robots, cobots are more flexible and easier to program. Industrial robots are designed to work in isolation and require dedicated programming and safety measures.

Cobots, being smaller, are designed to work alongside humans and require less programming and safety measures.

Cobots are also more cost-effective than industrial robots, making them a viable option for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), thus propelling the sector up the value chain as now smaller enterprises can see increased productivity and faster turnaround times.

Cobots can also perform dangerous tasks, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries in the workplace. They are also cost-effective, as they require less maintenance and engineer programming than traditional industrial robots.

The transition to Industry 5.0 presents several opportunities for manufacturers, including the development of new products, the optimisation of manufacturing processes, and the creation of new job roles.

Manufacturers that embrace collaborative automation will be well-positioned to take advantage of these opportunities.

According to a report by McKinsey, companies that embrace collaborative automation can expect to see a 7-18 percent increase in productivity and a 10-20 percent increase in throughput.

The versatility of cobots have benefitted businesses such as AIM Processing, which was a 400 percent increase in productivity after deploying UR5e cobots.

It also helps that these small cobots only consume 200W of energy during operation which is the same amount of energy as a gaming console.

Not only does Industry 5.0 move SMEs up the manufacturing value chain, human workers are up-skilled while the emission rates are decreased – aiding with sustainable development goals.

A Sustainable and Efficient Future

Industry 5.0 places a strong emphasis on social issues neglected by Industry 4.0, with the collaboration between humans and automation as well as sustainability being key elements.

With this approach, Industry 5.0 is envisioned as an enhanced version of Industry 4.0, one that is not only more environmentally friendly but also more centred around human needs while maintaining efficiency and productivity.

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly important to bring humans back to the center of the production process, working hand in hand with robots.

While managers must still find ways to digitise processes and enhance productivity in their factories, the ultimate goal is to alleviate the burden and monotony of tasks, allowing operators to develop and expand their skill sets.

By fostering this collaboration between humans and technology, Industry 5.0 paves the way for a more sustainable and efficient future.

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