The year ahead looks hardwired for greater innovation in the robotics industry. By Lieu Yew Fatt, MD, Omron Electronics Singapore
2017 was a fantastic year for robotics, automation and artificial intelligence – robots can now perform tasks that can be considered difficult for some humans. They can perform amazing feats like backflips, display affection and recite Shakespeare. A robot even gained citizenship!
This was a year that robots developed significantly in their physical and engagement capabilities, and experts anticipate that robotic pick-up will continue to grow, with\ 1.7 million new robots estimated to be released by 2020.
These developments point to better robot capabilities and intelligence. They are more ready for the demands of business and for industrial deployment like in manufacturing. Smart robots will underpin repetitive, manual work, providing a boost for Singapore’s up and coming manufacturing industry in 2018.
Armed For Work: Machine Arms Help To Replace Undesirable Manual Work
Moving forward, machines will be a major assistive force in factories, especially when it comes to assembly. Research firm Forrester predicts that interactive robots will be working alongside people by 2027. Interactive robots will form the foundation of smarter factories, set to become the norm for 2018 and beyond as Industry 4.0 takes the world by storm.
Robots will take on human jobs, and especially so in 2018’s industrial and manufacturing floors, but not in the way that robs people of their jobs. Instead, undesirable manual work that often attracts few human takers in the first place will be taken on by machines. These are the jobs that humans do not want to do, and employers consistently find hard to fill.
Cloud(y) With A Chance Of Robots For Greater Efficiency
As Industry 4.0 rapidly advances, machines across the manufacturing floors will become more connected. This is made possible by the greater adoption of the cloud and the presence of advanced sensors in robots, which make for increasingly mobile machines that can help to physically transport things safely while communicating with other robots.
Cloud connectivity allows these robots to perform the same activities by sharing their data with each other. Sensors, in particular, allow robots to ‘understand’ their workflow and environment. For instance, sensing robots that can map out their surroundings know when to push or pull various carts and move workloads by relating that information to their assigned tasks. This results in flexible, efficient workers in dynamic manufacturing lines, where robots can navigate around obstacles, other robots, or even people walking the factory floor, with minimal loss of productivity.
A More Mature Market In Singapore For The Robotic Revolution
Singapore’s manufacturing industry has been expanding consistently and is maturing towards smarter factories for greater output in 2018. In 2017 alone, manufacturing output grew 25.8 percent year-on-year, proving that the nation is investing in the immense potential of this industry.
The Singapore Government has made a commitment to helping SMEs move towards intelligent robotics. This can be seen through the IMDA’s Industry Digital Guides (IDG), that have already been created for the retail and logistics industries. Manufacturers too, are moving towards simplifying user interfaces for smaller industries, which can help to further support the robotics in SME movement.
The key aim for both government and industry initiatives is to help SMEs graduate to completely autonomous operations and become known as intelligent businesses – unmanned warehouse operations, automated guided vehicles, and the like will underpin way of doing business. Assembly processes will become safer and more efficient with less human involvement, and the inclusion of robots will help to boost employment.
In the US, building these advances into the automation industry has created as many as 261,000 new jobs. Singapore is ideally placed to enjoy similar benefits due to the fertile automation environment being fostered by government, industry, and academia.
Robots will help companies that are having difficulties trying to fill positions, positions that include mainly manual tasks. The consolidation of different technologies has meant that cloud, robots, and sensors, now play a role in improving efficiency. Local SMEs in Singapore have shown great interest in going digital, and robotics will be part and parcel of the most advanced and successful companies. Whether it is manpower, technology, or business processes, robotics will be play a vital role in the future of any successful business.
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