It's long been the case that some of the first places we see full-scale automation have been factories, production lines and processing facilities. That's because manufacturing is such a profitable, large-scale enterprise that innovation in this space is often rewarded with a huge competitive edge in the market. But today's automation is delivering astounding efficiency benefits to the sector - something that the world needs at this moment of climate emergency. In this article, we'll look at how modern automation is changing the manufacturing landscape this decade.
When we say smart machines, we're not talking about general artificial intelligence - the kind that could make a walking, talking, humanoid robot. Rather, we're talking about robots that don't only know how to perform a certain task perfectly - they also know when they need to adjust to different stimuli - or shut themselves down if they spot an error on your line. This is an unprecedented rise in the ability of technology to think. For manufacturers who are used to manufacturing robots continuing their job even when the line is askew and there's a fault, this is a huge benefit to deliver to production lines.
Every kilowatt of power saved in a factory each week is hugely beneficial for both the energy costs shouldered by the firm in question, and for the environment. And automation technology is being built with these savings in mind, given the pressing urgency for firms to reduce their electricity consumption where and when possible. And you'll see it in the offerings of some of the finest new machinery, AI programs, and software-controlled robots: they're all designed to use as little energy as possible while performing the tasks you urgently need doing on your line.
If you're a production line that can't make products quickly enough to meet demand, you'll two options. One is to extend your factory, or to make a new one with a new line that runs parallel to your original line. And the other is to upgrade your technology, using smarter automation to accelerate your production line and get more products to market in less time. This latter option - cheaper as well as more efficient - is enabled by the world's most advanced automation technologies, which often simply tweak your existing setup without your having to invest in dozens of new machines.
Machines can now sense - a little like a complete organism, despite the machines themselves being disconnected and discrete. That's because the internet of things has rolled around, enabling smart sensors to be fitted on machines, conveyors and other parts of your factory to track the pace of your production line and to feed back into a central computer. With your machines sensing as well as thinking, you can leave it up to them to decide if you need to add a new element to your line, or which parts of your production to speed up and which to slow down.
Automation continues apace in the world of manufacturing. In this article, you'll have learned four ways in which that pace of change is writing a new rulebook for manufacturers across the world.