The use of robotics in manufacturing has come some way since the first industrial robot patent in 1954 and General Motors’ early adoption in 1962.
Performance of countless roles in the factory environment are better suited to robots: where parts are too small for human eyes and where workers need to be protected from high-risk tasks are two notable examples. Where work too is mundane or repetitive, using robots brings the added advantage of re-pointing human resource to more skilled work such as engineering or programming.
Robots require no climate control or lighting and, as such, can operate 24/7 in lights-out situations and long after human workers have gone home. Where manufacturers have lost business due to an inability to scale up in time to service a large contract, the use of robotics can significantly improve competitiveness. Of course, the rise in popularity of robots also presents an opportunity for cable manufacturers involved in the assembly of robotic cables.
Robots do not, however, come cheap. Not only are they themselves expensive so too is the assessment of the factory to identify where the use of robotics might make the most impact. It can take several years before a return on investment can be evidenced.
Perhaps what will dictate the adoption of robotics in the cable industry is how adaptable the technology is to a linear industry. Robotics are already well embedded in discrete industries such as car or mobile phone manufacture where the end product is not a complex one. In the mobile phone industry, for example, there may be only four different SKUs (stock keeping units) for an iPhone. For the cable industry, however, there could be thousands of different product iterations.
Cable and wire manufacture is rarely off-the-shelf and there will need to be significant advancements in robotics technology before it can be rolled out at pace to our industry. Even then, it is unlikely it will ever fully replace the human workforce. Implementing robotics still requires in-depth assessment and continual review; and of course relies on the unique capability of the human mind in anticipating issues that may lie ahead and adapting approach accordingly.
To find out more about how Cimteq’s design and manufacturing software is supporting the adoption of Industry 4.0 in general, please email Katy Harrison, Marketing Manager, Cimteq at firstname.lastname@example.org
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