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Businesses Robotics

Factory-In-a-Day Project Aims To Deploy Work-Ready Robots Within 24 Hours 157

Zothecula writes "Industrial robots have proven useful in reducing production costs in large factories, with major enterprises enlisting their services to execute repetitive tasks. The Factory-in-a-Day project, which kicked off in October, aims to also make robotic technology beneficial to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), by developing adaptable robots that can be integrated with workplace systems within 24 hours."
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Factory-In-a-Day Project Aims To Deploy Work-Ready Robots Within 24 Hours

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  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @02:46PM (#45641787)

    "Automation like this only benefits two groups, factory owners and the consumers of the product."

    Make that three groups, as those deploying, servicing and repairing the robots will remain in demand for many years. Industrial equipment gets used hard and doesn't fix itself yet.

    The skills needed for that are a combination not natural or intuitive to many people. The world has plenty of computer geeks, plenty of mechanics, and plenty of electricians. It has fewer who are all of those.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @03:22PM (#45642143)

    Automation like this only benefits two groups, factory owners and the consumers of the product.

    What about the engineers who program the device? The tooling makers who build the automation and fixtures? The more skilled (higher paid) workers needed to operate the machines? The workers who remain employed because their company remains competitive? The maintenance workers who service the machine? The bank which finances the equipment purchase? The workers who get hired on the next project because the company is more competitive? All these groups and more benefit from automation. You have an overly simplistic, short sighted and incorrect view of this issue.

    It's a vicious cycle that's been going on for a century and we now have unheard of disparity between rich and poor.

    Demonstrably nonsense. Income inequality fell until around the 1970s-80s. The disparities we are seeing recently are a recent phenomena and are due to a complicated mixture of the falling power of unions, globalization, and financial manipulation.

    The big loser is the worker who is left without a job.

    Sigh... I run a small manufacturing company and I'm a certified accountant as well as an industrial engineer. Automation does not mean fewer jobs, it means different jobs and in the long run it means more jobs. Automation happens when a product needs to be produced in sufficient volume or with quality and/or safety requirements such that employing humans to do the job is not economical. The "lost" jobs you are bemoaning would never exist in the first place or if they did they would exist in the location with the lowest labor costs. My company purchased automation for lead making (we make wire harnesses) that allowed us to produce subassemblies faster. This allowed us to hire MORE people than we would have without the automation. In fact without the automation we would have been bankrupt. There is NO possible way for anyone to produce 500,000 wire leads with good quality by hand for a competitive price even with Chinese labor rates.

    I'll give you another example. We use automation to process a six conductor cable for a jumper harness. We make about 1000 of these each day. While it is technically possible to automate this with some very expensive robotics and vision systems, the volume requirements would have to be ten times what we are producing to even consider doing that. The automation would cost well over US$2 million (yes I've looked). So we have unskilled workers who don't get paid much doing the work. Because of the cost of this automation (we can't afford it) we have to charge higher prices for our services which means we lose out on bids for work and cannot hire as many people. Lack of automation actually hinders our ability to hire more people because it limits our competitiveness.

    I am not a Luddite, but we need to think about how tech affect society. I think most engineers would agree that there are certain technologies that are unethical to work in. To me, this is one of them.

    Factory automation is not in any way unethical. People are the most flexible and useful asset companies have. Why would you limit your people to doing boring, repetitive tasks when they are capable of so much more? I'm guessing you have never worked an assembly line. It is mostly dull, soul crushing work that pays badly and grossly underutilizes what people can do. Come work on our assembly line for a few days and you'll be whistling a different tune. Factory automation lets us get more work and hire more people and the people we hire can be paid more and do more. It's a positive cycle.

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