Industrial Robots How They Make a Difference Versus Traditional Warehouses

The world is currently in what is known as the beginning of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, a concept developed by Klaus Schwab for the World Economic Forum. In this coming (some would argue, occurring) paradigm shift, the collective peoples of the earth are moving towards more aspects of automation in their daily lives. Concepts included here are the rising ubiquitousness of cyber-physical systems, where machines are managed by automated digital systems, as well as a consistently growing Internet-of-Things powered by smart algorithms and cloud computing.

In essence, the world is changing. What was previously thought to be a standard way of operating is now being upset and changed by the influx of new technologies that are coming out in faster and faster periods of time. Every sector, group, and industry is affected by this change, but none so much as the logistics sector. Already we’ve seen massive changes to infrastructures by some of the leading logistics companies as they began utilizing RFID chips in their systems, turning what was thought to be an already efficient process of scanning packages into one that requires just one scan to capture an entire pallet’s worth of goods.

But RFID chips and similar innovations are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the changes that are occurring in the warehousing, storage, and logistics industries. With all these new changes, one variable factor is likely going to feel the change more than others: the workers. In an age where nearly everything can be automated and made more efficient with the implementation of technologies, the question arises of whether or not humans are still necessary for these industries moving forward.

What Are Industrial Robots?

Industrial robots are a catch-all term for automated machinery that often performs work based on a set procedure. Often these are observed as a piece of armed machinery managing different materials on a production line, either through processing, organizing, sorting, and more.

Industrial robots are often utilized in warehouses and plants that have highly standardized processes that can be easily routinized through a program. Each one is also likely to be performing a specific and repeatable task that allows the machine to carry on managing with little need for supervision.

In today’s fourth industrial revolution, we are beginning to see industrial robots move past their standard spaces of operation towards sharing more working space alongside factory and warehouse workers. These collaborative robotics operational systems make up a large part of the current landscape of industrial robot-equipped warehouses and will likely continue being an integral part of business operations in the years to come.

Why Industrial Robots Change the Game

Industrial robots carry much of the benefits that any piece of technology and robotics carry with them: efficiency. The most obvious and apparent value proposition that these industrial robots have is their ability to manage a particular task without the need for breaks and with little to no margins of error. As these tasks are usually programmed and integrated within a specific machine’s hardware, it can also begin to complete tasks at a faster rate than any single person could.

Beyond the clear benefit of efficiencies in the warehouse and manufacturing industries, industrial robots also provide the benefit of being able to work in spaces in which human error can mean grave consequences. With these industrial robots, people no longer need to subject themselves to hazardous working conditions or make choices that can greatly affect the output of the process. Robots take the risk and provide better analytics so that both workplace integrity and productivity are not only maintained but improved.

Industrial robot capabilities are also consistently evolving year-round. For example, these robots were once thought to be stationary but are now able to be mobile, navigating their environment in smart and predictable manners. For a real industry development, Otto technologies had begun developing new software packages that enable better pathfinding and efficiencies with autonomous mobile robots, or AMRs, in the hope of achieving even better productivity throughout.

Why Humans Might Be Sticking Around

This increase in the utilization of industrial robotics has had a knock-on effect on the labour market for warehousing and manufacturing. Despite the high demand for warehouses and related facilities, companies are still facing high employee turnover and massive dissatisfaction with the industry at large, reaching an eye-watering 244,000 job vacancies in a recent industry quarterly report alone.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for those working in warehouses just yet. Part of what makes the fourth industrial revolution so exciting is the integration of collaborative workspaces that combine both machine cyber-physical systems and worker expertise in their given fields. Despite machine learning being a key aspect in how these industrial robots are likely to develop, their capabilities in handling complex tasks and novel issues are still in a nascent stage. This means that when something goes wrong or a new problem arises, humans are still likely to be the ones that can solve the issue at hand.

Moreover, these same technologies that are thought to replace humans can actually help them perform their jobs better. The concept of AI and industrial robotics can be developed in a way that synergizes with the present working operating system that is present in a given company. For example, silicon wafer production uses a large amount of industrial robotics to handle intricate and sensitive tasks that humans aren’t readily capable of, but it still falls on specific engineers and experts to examine and make adjustments when necessary to a particular production output.

Key Learnings For The Future

Industrial robots are only going to get better in terms of their capabilities from here on out, but that doesn’t necessarily create a mutually exclusive distinction against the reality of humans still making up a large portion of the industrial workforce. Often synergies can be achieved in companies looking to leverage their in-house talent’s expertise while also claiming the benefits of machinery that not only perform tasks faster but in a safer and more efficient manner.

Still, the landscape is definitely shifting in terms of what the future’s warehouses will look like. While we can’t conclusively assert that humans will always have a place in these warehouses, we can pretty much guarantee that these industrial robots are only going to continue to be present and eventually become a necessity in the modern business ecosystem.

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Published on 

Feb 10, 2023


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