Industry 4.0 - It's real and it's time for innovation

At this years’ Hannover Messe the buzzword on everyone’s lips was Industry 4.0, each warehouse-sized hall was filled with people talking about this next industrial revolution. However, many industry experts have already commented that this revolution has already begun, and that if your business isn’t already leveraging this latest technology then you’re already losing your competitive edge in the global manufacturing world.

One of the main takeaways from Hannover Messe 2016 was not only the sheer number of robots on display, but the development of the latest smart collaborative robots. The robotics hall was by far the busiest with people thronging to experience this technology revolution – all wanting to see how humans and robots can safely work together without the need for caging or guarding.


Time for change

Robots are like phones. Since the 90s the technology has changed significantly. Many companies last looked at automation a number of years ago and concluded that robotic automation was too expensive, not flexible enough or they simply didn’t have enough space in their factory for all the necessary caging and guarding.

This no longer needs to be the case as just like mobile phones have gotten smaller (who remembers the briefcase sized ‘mobile’ phones?) robots have changed too, and smart collaborative robots like Sawyer from Rethink Robotics are here to help and work with you.

Designed to work alongside humans, like humans do, manufacturers can leverage their precision for the dirty, dangerous and dull tasks which typically have a high staff turnover rate, product quality issues or an added risk of RSI injury to your workforce.

At present only about 10 per cent of all automatable tasks are currently automated. The Boston Consulting Group predicts that by 2025, 25 per cent of these tasks will be automated, which represents a 150 per cent growth in just 10 years!*


Innovative Solution

What sets Sawyer apart from other basic collaborative robots is the powerful Intera software which enables training through demonstration. Now big and small companies alike…even those with zero robotics knowledge, have access to an affordable automation system. It also means that a typical integration project can take as little as two hours so your ROI countdown starts almost instantly.

Talking of ROI - due to the low cost of the robot, no need for expensive safety caging or system engineering, ROI for Sawyer is usually in four to eight months. With a lifetime of five years Sawyer is a machine which just keeps giving back, requires almost zero maintenance and is constantly improving thanks to regular software improvements.

Using Sawyer is child’s play – in fact, it is safe enough even for children to use. The hardware-based safety system is fully compliant to ISO 10218 and TS 15066 and is certified for use throughout the world. The embedded sensors and cameras gives businesses the ability to change applications quickly using the clever Robot Positioning System as well as opening up a whole range of visual inspection tasks.


Lean manufacturing

Most companies are embarking on lean manufacturing projects to try and increase productivity and reduce operating costs. Manufacturing agility is a common theme as products are having an increasingly short shelf like. In a world where most people are changing their mobile phone every 18 months and consumers are far more price sensitive, manufacturers must also be more flexible and agile.

Smart collaborative robots such as Sawyer are perfectly suited for flexible batch run production thanks to the smart Intera software. Line changes and robot redeployments can be undertaken in under a minute which keeps downtime at an absolute minimum.

One of the key trends of lean manufacturing, and the idea behind Industry 4.0, is the evolution of Jidoka. By having a bank of self-monitoring machine systems tended by robots and being supervised by a human you can achieve a greater level of production efficiency and re-deploy your staff to more value added operations. This principal has been adopted by many of the big name retailers and the subsequent introduction of self-service checkouts. Through utilising innovative technology they are able to re-deploy staff to more value-added tasks whilst still providing the essential checkout services. This not only improves the customer experience but reduces operating costs and inefficiencies, such as machine tending in manufacturing.

Barclays has joined the automation conversation and its research suggests that 65 per cent of British manufacturers have increased their productivity with automation and that by leveraging automation Britain could safeguard further job losses and secure up to 73,500 jobs by 2025.**

Active8 Robots has been working with collaborative robots since 2012. The company’s experienced and friendly team are on hand to answer any of your questions and guide you through your collaborative robot automation project.


* Boston Consulting Group (2015) Takeoff in Robotics Will Power the Next Productivity Surge in Manufacturing”. Press release 10/2/2015

** Mike Rigby / Barclays (2015) Future-proofing of UK Manufacturing. Available HERE. Accessed 13.5.2016


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