Ro­bots and Hu­man: Work­ing to­gether in In­dus­try 4.0

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Ger­many, the un­doubted and un­ri­valled leader of the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, in­tro­duced the con­cept of In­dus­try 4.0 which aims to trans­form in­dus­trial man­u­fac­tur­ing with the help of IoT, AI, Robotics, 3D print­ing. ‘Ro­bots would ren­der hu­mans job­less’ is the prime rea­son why this con­cept has been fac­ing a back­lash. Though every driver is ca­pa­ble to bring about dis­rup­tion, the ro­bots are the ones which score the most amongst the in­tel­li­gentsia. Team StitchWorld, in this ar­ti­cle, de­mys­ti­fies the dis­ad­van­tages sur­round­ing the hu­man-ro­bot as­so­ci­a­tion.

Let’s have a glance at some of the in­ter­est­ing find­ings that have sur­faced re­cently:

Ro­bots can cre­ate, not elim­i­nate jobs: UN re­port

Ro­bots won't kill the work­force. They'll save the global econ­omy: The Wash­ing­ton Post

Why Ro­bots won't be com­ing for all our jobs: Forbes

Why Ro­bots won't be tak­ing our jobs: Ap­ple Co-founder Steve Woz­niak

Half of all jobs in the US will be fully au­to­mated over the next 20 years: Univer­sity of Oxford

The fear of los­ing jobs among the work­force has height­ened con­jec­tur­ing that ro­bots would take the place of hu­mans in re­tail stores and ware­houses. One such case is of SoftBank Mo­bile Stores in Ja­pan which is us­ing a hu­manoid ro­bot. Pep­per, the ro­bot, can be pro­grammed to chat and in­ter­act with cus­tomers, give di­rec­tions and an­swer ques­tions. The ro­bot can also play mu­sic, light up, dance and take self­ies with passers-by. Another lat­est ex­am­ple of ro­bots in­vad­ing re­tail can be seen in case of Wal­mart. The US re­tailer has em­ployed Bossa Nova's ro­bots which are able to per­form var­i­ous tasks such as iden­ti­fy­ing when items are out of stock, lo­cat­ing in­cor­rect prices, and de­tect­ing wrong or miss­ing la­bels. The grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of ro­bots, the at­ten­tion they re­ceive and the in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity they of­fer are some of the rea­sons why peo­ple have de­vel­oped the fear of re­dun­dancy, thus mak­ing them neo-lud­dites. Var­i­ous sur­vey find­ings which sup­port ro­botic dis­rup­tion are based on the fact that ro­bots are meant to work in col­lab­o­ra­tion with hu­mans to sup­port them. And thus, col­lab­o­ra­tive ro­bots (cobots) are the next big thing.

Cobots are cheap, light­weight, and easy to pro­gram. De­signed to work along­side hu­mans, they can also be in­tro­duced into an ex­ist­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing process with­out any ma­jor trans­for­ma­tion or ex­pense. Whereas con­ven­tion­ally, ro­bots are meant to han­dle ‘dull, dirty and dan­ger­ous jobs’, the new age ro­bots are able to work along with hu­man coun­ter­parts.

Both McKin­sey & Co. and A.T. Kear­ney have men­tioned col­lab­o­ra­tive ro­bots as the driv­ers of In­dus­try 4.0.

Au­to­ma­tion, un­til now, has worked only in two ways: light­sout au­to­ma­tion and robot­cen­tric au­to­ma­tion. The first ap­proach com­pletely elim­i­nates hu­mans from the process. Man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions can go on un­su­per­vised for weeks at a time with­out light (or heat­ing and air-con­di­tion­ing) be­cause there are no hu­mans in the fa­cil­ity. While the ro­bot-cen­tric ap­proach lim­its the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween hu­mans and ro­bots by plac­ing ro­bots be­hind bar­ri­ers and im­ple­ment­ing pro­to­cols to me­di­ate how and when peo­ple can en­ter a ro­bot workspace. Hav­ing hu­mans work­ing around very large, heavy, fast-mov­ing ro­bots can put peo­ple at greater risk of in­jury, which all busi­nesses want to avoid.

None of the ap­proaches fo­cus on putting hu­mans and ro­bots to­gether, lever­ag­ing each one’s ex­per­tise to ring out the best. But the hu­man-cen­tric au­to­ma­tion al­lows ro­bots to work with hu­mans, as some tasks will al­ways need hu­man in­ter­ven­tion. And most of the times, ro­bots are re­quired to per­form a small part in the task. Th­ese are de­signed with the help of tech­nol­ogy,

Col­lab­o­ra­tive ro­bots mar­ket is fore­cast to reach US $ 4.2 bil­lion by 2023 from US $ 176.7 mil­lion in 2016 at a CAGR of 56.94 per cent dur­ing (2017-2023) driven by high ROI rates and low price of col­lab­o­ra­tive ro­bots lead­ing to grow­ing at­trac­tion from SMEs and in­creas­ing in­vest­ments in au­to­ma­tion by in­dus­tries to sup­port In­dus­try 4.0 evo­lu­tion.

tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion the safety as­pect. Some are built on tech­nol­ogy that al­lows them to be aware of their sur­round­ings, so if a hu­man comes close to them, they ei­ther slow down or stop. Be­ing Force-lim­ited by na­ture, if they come in con­tact with a hu­man, they only trans­fer a small amount of force that will not cause in­jury. Other cobots are also wrapped in soft pad­ding to cush­ion any po­ten­tial con­tact.

Another fac­tor that makes ro­bot a must for sup­port­ing the work­force in man­u­fac­tur­ing is in­vest­ment. While in­dus­trial ro­bots are ex­pen­sive and re­quire skilled work­force to han­dle them, cobots are much cheaper and re­quire no large up­front in­vest­ment.

There are a num­ber of ex­am­ples of Cobots used in con­junc­tion with ap­parel ma­chiner­ies. In gar­ment in­dus­try, the gar­ment fold­ing and pack­ing is car­ried out by the ro­bots. They take the gar­ments, fold them and then pack them. The ro­bots used are YASKAWA MOTOMAN and Kuka KF 200. Another ap­pli­ca­tion where they can be used ef­fec­tively is dur­ing the cut­ting of clothes ac­cord­ing to the de­sign. Cut pieces can be col­lected by ABB RO­BOTS re­plac­ing end ef­fec­tors. Sewbo rev­o­lu­tion­ized the world with its in­no­va­tion, us­ing a ro­botic arm to pick up and han­dle the stiff­ened fab­ric panel. Univer­sal Ro­bots, a Ban­ga­lore­based firm, of­fers three dif­fer­ent types of col­lab­o­ra­tive ro­bots (cobots) which can be in­te­grated into the ex­ist­ing pro­duc­tion en­vi­ron­ments. UR3 weighs 11 kg but has a pay­load of 3 kg, 360-de­gree ro­ta­tion on all wrist joints, and in­fi­nite ro­ta­tion on the end joint cov­er­ing a ra­dius of 500 mm. Another type UR5, weighs around 18.4 kg and has a pay­load of up to 5 kg. Ideal for op­ti­mis­ing pro­cesses such as pick­ing, plac­ing, and test­ing, it cov­ers a ra­dius of 850 mm. The largest of them all, UR10 can be used to au­to­mate pro­cesses and tasks with pay­loads that weigh up to 10 kg and have a ra­dius of 1300 mm.

Gra­bit’s so­lu­tion uses elec­troad­he­sion to pick up the fab­ric, move it, and then re­lease it flat. The tech­nol­ogy can be used to stack and un-stack pieces or pick up pieces from a cut­ting ta­ble with­out dis­tor­tion or wrin­kling – a level at par with what one would get from pick­ing up the fab­ric man­u­ally or a hand-like ro­botic end ef­fec­tor.

Bax­ter ro­botic arm form, Bos­ton­based Re­think Robotics, is able to feed a two-headed sewing ma­chine with­out hu­man in­ter­ven­tion. A num­ber of other providers are also present in the mar­ket, some of which are FANUC, Kawada, Gomtec (ac­quired by ABB).

The ro­bot-cen­tric ap­proach lim­its the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween hu­mans and ro­bots by plac­ing ro­bots be­hind bar­ri­ers and im­ple­ment­ing pro­to­cols to me­di­ate how and when peo­ple can en­ter a ro­bot workspace. Hav­ing hu­mans work­ing around very large, heavy, fast-mov­ing ro­bots can put peo­ple at greater risk of in­jury, which all busi­nesses want to avoid.

Cobots are light­weight, easy to pro­gram and are de­signed to work along­side hu­mans

Bax­ter ro­botic arm can feed two-headed sewing ma­chine with­out hu­man in­ter­ven­tion

Univer­sal Ro­bots of­fers three types of arms based on the na­ture of work

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