It is said that the automation of the manufacturing process will greatly change the manufacturing industry. But what exactly will happen to the automation of the manufacturing process? In this article, we’ll show you what changes happen in manufacturing process automation and the three technologies that are deeply involved in manufacturing process automation.
What changes when manufacturing is automated?
Automation has long been a challenge in modern manufacturing as a means of increasing production efficiency and profits. What does automation mean in the first place?
Automation is the process of changing the way machines and computers do the work that was done by humans.
In the manufacturing industry, it is generally called that a machine performs some or all of the work in the manufacturing process on behalf of a person. For example, changing parts that were once transported by hand to conveyors or automated robots are one example of automation. Another option is to have a welding robot replace the process of manual welding by humans. In addition, it can be said that it is automated to introduce a machine that excludes the work that humans visually judge and remove the poor color tone by image recognition.
What are the benefits of automation in the manufacturing industry for the process, manufacturing department, and the entire company?
- Labor costs are reduced
Automation is a machine that replaces the work that was done manually, so the typical merit is that the labor costs involved in that work can be reduced. If automation can reduce labor costs, which are a big factor for companies, it will be very effective.
- Reducing recruitment and training risks
Whenever you hire a new person or relocate from another department, there is always a risk of hiring and training. Whether or not a person will achieve the standard production efficiency cannot be determined without watching the situation for a certain period of time. In addition, if the employee retires or changes jobs after the training on work is completed, the cost of labor and time required for training is wasted. If you let the machine take charge of the work by automation, the cost and risk of such recruitment and training will be reduced.
- Prevention of productivity variations due to human error
A person cannot repeat exactly the same movement. In addition, there are individual differences in judgment and memory, and they may be affected by the physical condition of the day. Moreover, no matter how good you hire, it will be difficult to completely prevent human error. If machines replace the work, such variations can be prevented and stable production can be expected.
- Environmental adaptability
People cannot work long hours in an environment that is too hot or too cold. In addition, in the case of a site where special odors, harmful gases, or strong light are generated, it is necessary to spend money to create an environment where people can work comfortably and safely. In the case of a machine, it can operate for a long time even in such an environment. Another feature of automation is that it can be used in any operating environment.
As you can see, automation has various advantages and has been promoted in the manufacturing industry. However, with the evolution of technology, it has been difficult until now.
Two techniques deeply related to automation
With the acceleration of manufacturing automation, it is said that “manufacturing will move to the next generation”. This is related to the major evolution of the two technologies.
IoT: Gather information on behalf of people
When you do something, information is so important that it’s more complex and something that can only be done by people. This is because it is necessary to make a decision to input, process, and output the information obtained in the process of work.
In the past, this large amount of information could not be collected automatically. However, with the development of sensing technology and communication means, connecting everything to the Internet, the Internet of Things (IoT) is now realized. IoT is also advancing the automation of information collection, processing, and reflection in manufacturing factories.
Smart Factory realizes this in an ideal way. Various sensors and devices are connected to the Internet to collect, process, and feedback information. There is no need to keep an eye on the operation or operation of the machine. It is said that the realization of smart factories that make full use of such IoT will bring about innovation that can be described as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.
The work of “collecting information” that people were doing is rapidly automating with the realization of IoT.
Robotics: Working on behalf of people
Another thing that is affecting the acceleration of automation of manufacturing processes is the development of robotics.
Robotics, also known as robotics, has traditionally referred to academics and technical research for robot development. However, the meaning of the word robotics has expanded, and not only robot development but also technologies related to robots, how to use them, and the robot industry in general.
According to a survey by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and NEDO, the robot industry will reach a market size of 9.7 trillion yen in 2035, compared to 1.6 trillion yen in 2015. it is expected to be more than double the size. The rapid expansion of the robot industry market in this way means that the introduction of robots will advance in various fields. With the spread of IoT introduced earlier, the introduction of robots will directly lead to the progress of automation as it is.
In this way, with the development of IoT and robotics, the introduction of robots will progress further in the future, and at the same time, automation will accelerate.
Towards another level of automation
These two technologies, IoT, and robotics are deeply related to each other, and there are parts that overlap. Both require processing large amounts of information and have a history of developing with the spread of the cloud.
However, in order to further automate and realize the evolution of the manufacturing industry so as to be called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, it has been understood that there is a limit to information processing in the cloud.
When people are working, the information received by images is processed much faster than in the brain. In particular, the ability to recognize images is an area where human capabilities are greatly leading to machines. In addition, information received by eyes and hands is transmitted at a formidable speed.
On the other hand, there is a possibility that time lag will occur everywhere in IoT information collection and processing in the cloud. It is said that when sending and receiving collected information to the cloud, a time lag of several hundred milliseconds to several seconds occurs. In addition, there is a possibility that delays may occur due to disturbances in communication conditions and congestion of the communication network.
Edge computing is attracting attention. The idea of edge computing is to improve the time lag by processing information on the field side rather than sending all the information to the cloud in bulk. By using cloud computing that can utilize large-scale information and edge computing that can process information in near real-time on the field side, it is possible to operate the system by taking advantage of each other’s strengths.
When edge computing eliminates the potential for latency as much as possible, the robot’s reaction speed will be significantly improved. The processing and feedback of the received information are instantaneous, improving the operating accuracy of the instrument and enabling more precise work. If this is a robot developed by the latest robotics, you can expect a greater effect.
In this way, automation in the future will evolve further with edge computing supporting IoT and robotics.
Edge computing accelerates automation with IoT and robotics
We discussed long-standing manufacturing challenges, three key technologies that will further accelerate automation, the relationship between IoT and robotics, and edge computing. With automation using IoT and robotic technology, smart factories look the ideal shape of a factory. But edge computing is what you need to take to the next level. By adding speed and stability to traditional automation, we can move to the next level of automation with greater accuracy.