At DEVELOP LLC we consider it our fiduciary responsibility to be open, honest, and upfront about the costs, timelines, challenges, and rewards when integrating automated technology into a business. The internet can be a confusing source for finding accurate representations of knowledge when verifying sources, evaluating bias, and sifting kernels of truth. At DEVELOP LLC, we want to clear the air on some of the “myths” you might see when internet people talk about industrial automation integration.
Myth #1: “Industrial automation steals jobs.”
Revolutions in technology transform the job market, they do not destroy it. When the demand for assembly workers decreases, the demand for operators, process automation specialists, engineers, and analysts increases. The World Economic Forum predicted that automation would make 87 million jobs vulnerable for displacement by 2025, 97 million new roles would have to emerge to service the automated technology market. That is a gain of 12 million new openings that have room for advancement, new skills, and creative challenges.
Some of these jobs are not coming back. CNN reported that there are half a million job openings in specialized and entry level manufacturing despite a 37 year high in demand for US manufacturing. They predict this gap will grow to 2.1 million and cost manufacturers one trillion dollars by 2030. These jobs make up the most repetitive, dangerous, demanding, high-turnover, and unsatisfying jobs in manufacturing. When you integrate robotic automation in these roles that no one likes to do, you are bridging the gap between the supply of skilled workers and demand. With a skill and body gap this large, the only solution that bridges that gap and contributes to competitive growth at the same time comes from industrial automation.
Myth #2: “Industrial robots shackle you to your integrator.”
A responsible automation integrator will tell you upfront that from beginning to end integrating a machine into your floor can take months to years. Scoping the process, customizing your technology to fit the specific needs of your business, ensuring the swiftest return on investment, engaging top to bottom your workforce in machine adoption, all require a professional partnership. But a responsible integration will involve education, instructions on operation and maintenance, documentation, training, and a commitment to guaranteeing customer self-reliance. As an option you can also ask for a maintenance contract. Maintenance contracts can include remote maintenance and a variety of annual support packages designed to put the maintenance responsibility back on the integrator.
Myth #3: “Robots use new, untested technology.”
The term Industry 4.0 required there to be a first industrial revolution with steam powered hand production machines, a second industrial revolution with the addition of electrical production lines, and a third industrial with the addition of digital computer technology. Current automation technology utilizes artificial intelligence, cloud computing, interconnectivity, and smart sensors, but they build on preexisting practices for gathering information to help you make smart decisions for your production. Most of the misunderstandings about predictive maintenance, AI, and machine learning forget that you need to start with a custom machine or robot with a strong data acquisition (see our Node U Design products). When you are new a good integrator will train you and guide you to an integration that has the proper ratio of risk (engineering) and ROI cost to return on cash outlay so you have many successful integrations. These might be advanced tools, they might be expensive tools, but they are still tools. They can get you the information you would have gotten with graph paper but with higher speed, consistency, detail, and transparency. If you are reading this blog post, you are already part of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Myth #4: “Integrating a robotic machine is too expensive for a small business.”
A responsible machine integrator will tell you upfront that a custom automation integration can reach six figures. But between 2010 and 2017 the average cost of industrial robots dropped 58%. It is also good to speak with your accountant to confirm whether the full purchase price of your piece of equipment or software can be written off under Section 179 of the IRS tax code in the same tax year of purchase. A responsible integrator will know how to achieve a swift return on investment and the many financial advantages of integrating your first robot or automated machine. Look at our Return-on-Investment Calculator to learn the factors that will drive your financial success and justify your investment. Especially if you are a first timer, try our Reverse ROI Calculator to help you identify a realistic budget.
Myth #5: “Robots can do everything a person can do, but better.”
Robots can currently do the following things better than humans in the following ways:
Robots do not get tired or bored. They can work through multiple shifts without breaks.
With the proper programming training and software, a robot can be programmed to perform a new task much faster than a human could be trained. Machine learning and sensors can also contribute to rapid adaptation to new tasks.
High speed tasks
Robots can maintain a higher speed than people with consistency, accuracy, and reliability. The UCSF robotic pharmacy filled 350,000 doses of medication without a single error.
Robots work seamlessly with temperatures, hazardous chemicals, dangerous tools, and environments hostile to humans.
Robots and automated machines can maintain consistent quality with limited variability.
Humans are still the best choice for the following tasks:
As advanced as artificial intelligence has evolved, people are still needed to make judgements, create designs, and determine the direction for your production. Operators are still needed to make the decisions about how your machine will grow your business.
Inconsistent, high variation tasks
Industrial robots achieve the greatest return on investment with high volume/low mix production. For jobs that require non-specific, varied, custom inputs, the manual work of a person is often a better fit.
Myth #6 “Automation means I don’t control my production or know what’s going on.”
The opposite is true. The information transparency provided by the interconnectivity of machines, devices, and sensors gives you an unprecedented overview of your production process. You can monitor actionable metrics on inventory, costs, correlations, anomalies, and resources. You can operate through mobile devices, the internet of things, and advanced human machine interfaces. With automated interconnectivity, a COO can remotely manage multiple facilities across the globe.
Also consider how little control you have when your production depends on manual labor. Employees can walk out, get sick, or go on strike. Machine maintenance is rigidly scheduled, limits are specifically calculated, and outcomes are predictable.
Myth #7 “I don’t have to worry about safety” or “I have to obsess about safety.”
On the one hand, a robot will take on production tasks that would be too dangerous for humans. A properly scoped robot can do work in extreme cold or heat, they do not suffer from repetitive stress injuries, they can lift up to 1000 kilograms (about the weight of a Clydesdale horse) consistently without worries, they do not get sick, they can work multiple shifts without breaks, they can handle poisons, irritating powders, and hazardous materials without risking deadly exposure, they can work underwater without oxygen, and they can use dangerous tools like welding torches, blades, and drills without self-harm concerns.
On the other hand, when operating in a production space that will contain human workers, you will have to take precautions, implement employee safety training, and maintain safety standards. Industrial machines use safety cages, light curtains, pressure mats, proximity sensors, audible and visible warning systems, emergency brakes/stops, secure mounting, and security lockouts. Rules about regular maintenance, operating standards, safety checks, and accident prevention training will all need to be observed to keep conditions on your floor safe. Even cobots, designed to work in proximity with human workers with force and power limitations, will need safety training and precautions.
Your automation integration team will build safety equipment and set guidelines for the implementation of these safety standards.
Myth #8 “Automating production is complicated.”
Recognizing there are no one size fits all solutions, and not everyone is on equal footing, is the first step. Custom integration of your engineering solution, cobot, robotic machine, or automation integration project is perfectly achievable with an experienced company like DEVELOP LLC. A responsible integrator will be upfront about the risks, timelines, and costs associated with automating your production.
A responsible automation integrator will require an automation assessment. They will scope your wants, needs, and resources. They will customize your integration to achieve the swiftest return on investment while modernizing your production to maximize your competitive advantage. An expert automation integrator will scope the project with clear definitions of success, failure, and progress benchmarks.
DEVELOP LLC has years of experience mitigating the risks of automation integration. We will own the complications and chart a course for stability, longevity, scalability, and swift return on your investment. Tell us more about your project, schedule a virtual meeting, or call (262)-622-6104 to learn more about how we can help you with your succession plan.