Technology is changing how factories will operate in an era of artificial intelligence and automation. The concept behind the evolving automation process is to make sure that humans are not involved in the dirty and dangerous jobs. In fact, redundant jobs, where humans can easily get fatigued, are a major reason why factories are adapting automatic technology.
The Evolution of Automation
Whereas automation was largely confined to behind-the-scenes production plants of major companies, it is increasingly visible in the public places. For instance, businesses are now starting to put robots in consumer stores. A 5-foot tall robot is in charge at the Lowes Orchard Hardware Supply warehouse, in California. After selecting the product, using its touch-screen, the robot guides the customer to the exact location of the hardware in the massive store. Similarly, Best Buy’s Chloe, brings everything to the customer within 30 seconds as they wait at the front desk. Yotel, a new hospitality chain, goes even further by automating everything from cleaning the rooms to delivering guest laundry, and making coffee.
Automation in Factories
In contrast to the public outlets, factories have relied on automation since several decades. Accordingly, the dynamics of automation in factories is also changing with the changes in the roles of supervisors who are in charge of the automated process. The changing roles are best defined by the conveyor belt, which requires supervisors to have updated and in-depth knowledge of the ever-changing new components in the conveyor system. In the past, these belts required minimal assistance even when operating 24 hours a day. Accordingly, the active role of the supervisor was to keep a close eye on the automated operations. However, factories now require supervisors to have an inherent knowledge of how to keep conveyors working by resisting attacks from industrial oil, grease, and chemicals. Overall, it can be said that the evolution of automated systems has also changed the type of knowledge and experience that future manufacturing plants require from their supervisors.
Advances in Robotics
Another major reason behind the evolution of automated process is the ease of integration of different components used for the automation. Just a decade earlier, sensors and actuators had to be individually connected to the main controllers making automated platforms complicated and full of jumbled wiring. However, advances in artificial intelligence and streamlined hardware have simplified the process by allowing a variety of machine components to seamlessly connect to the main system. Interestingly, these smart components acts like robots by identifying themselves automatically to the control system, which also saves a lot of set- up time. In addition, these components are able to self-correct themselves by rectifying their maintenance problems in real-time.
Factories of Future
In 2019, factories are also taking advantage of machine learning process as machines are able to adapt their movements using multiple sensors and historic data. In fact, production units are taking advantage of spectral analysis, used by machines, which can automatically detect the quality of an ongoing manufacturing process. Nowadays, it is not uncommon for the computers to check the qualities of welds and related components, reducing the post-manufacture inspection time. Due to these technological advancements, it is now possible for large factories to increase product offerings, which was not possible by deploying human labor. Even small factories are taking advantage of the cost-savings by operating 24 hours a day without the need for continuous human supervision.
Automation in factories is changing how factories in the future may operate. In the past, researchers insisted that machines cannot operate on a stand-alone basis; therefore it would require some kind of human interaction to control the environment. In 2019, a number of factories are using artificially intelligent systems that rely on a self-learning process, reducing their dependence on human intervention. As a result, the concept of fully automated factories is gaining momentum, creating environment where robots are in charge of the automated process. Only time will tell if the robots will take over.