Don’t Fear the Robot: Humatics, Eckhart Push Factory Automation Tech
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is a trend that Pavan Muzumdar, chief operating officer at Automation Alley, has also seen over the past two or three years. He says that as countries with a significant manufacturing footprint, like China, experience an increase in the standard of living, the cost of labor goes up and the complexities of having an offshore operation seem less desirable. By embracing advanced manufacturing and innovations in industrial tech, American companies can become more productive and competitive, he says.
“[The U.S.] is very good at the physical part of manufacturing—at logistics, at making things consistently,” Muzumdar says. But those attributes and skills become less important in a digital world, he says, which is about change, trial and error, and iteration. “Manufacturers that are good at the physical by nature have cultural impediments to taking on a digital view of the world. But digital technologies bring about new business models, and to be competitive, the adoption of Industry 4.0 is critical. It’s not either/or. Manufacturers will have to continue to be good at the physical while overlaying the digital.”
Manufacturing and robotics are often rigid industries, Mindell says, so anything that makes them better able to respond to technological and environmental change is good for business. “The processes are changing all the time even if the core product stays the same,” he points out.
Above all, Storm says, Eckhart hopes to accelerate the adoption of advanced industrial systems like the Humatics platform and “unleash the chains that have bound the capabilities” of the American manufacturing and industrial sectors.
“Workers in the Midwest are sometime fearful of artificial intelligence and Industry 4.0, but fundamental parts of our lives are starting to change” as a result of these technologies, Storm says. “The reason to accelerate Industry 4.0 is to continue to help manufacturers manage chaos and variability; we can build things safer and with higher quality. If we can help our customers to better understand how to utilize automated tools, we can relocate employees to higher-value jobs. Let the collaborative robots handle mind-numbing tasks—we can use technology to plug lower-skill roles.”