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can the integrated workforce do more than increase efficiency?

in rethinking robotics by Jim Lawton

I’ll admit it. I’m a big believer in manufacturing. All shapes and sizes. From the Big M behemoths to the gritty start-ups increasingly part of the Maker Movement…there’s just something compelling about the realization of an idea or a concept as a product that gets used to do something.

Collaborative Robotics

In my last post, I described a new labor model for manufacturing– the integrated workforce. Here robots and humans work side-by-side doing the tasks that each is best suited to do. To have robots contribute to efficiency, productivity and accuracy on day-to-day execution of repetitive, low-skilled tasks is pretty exciting.

It’s a start, no doubt.  But there’s more. A lot more.  The new frontier in automation combines robots that can deliver real-time sensor driven telemetry data with software and data platforms that can aggregate structured and unstructured data to enable humans to do what they do best: understand the information, interpret it and make smart decisions about how to improve processes and ways to drive continuous innovation.

I know. Right now, manufacturers see the benefit of an integrated workforce around tactical needs. But believe me, the strategic value for robotics in manufacturing is there. Think about it. Say you bring in a robot in as a way to reduce repetitive stress injuries. But you realize that the robot can measure, track and report the torque applied to screws in assembly. What you can then do is correlate this data with downstream faults, find the patterns in the data that drive new insight, and revise the torque specifications used in the manufacturing process. Sure, you get less repetitive injuries, but you may also get fewer defective assemblies, lower replacement costs and happier customers.

What’s not to love?

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About the Author

Jim Lawton

Jim had a choice upon graduating from Tufts University – chase a dream as a concert pianist or become part of the inaugural Leaders for Manufacturing Program at MIT. He chose the latter– dedicating his career to developing and delivering innovative solutions that improve the business of manufacturing. Internally at HP, and then at breakthrough start-ups in e-commerce, inventory optimization and supply chain risk management, Jim’s never once looked back. His charter today: capture the power of data and analytics to push the standard for world-class manufacturing higher—once again.



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