With over 20 years of experience in the field of business and innovation, Skills for Growth - SME Support's Business Change Specialist Peter Craen is a much valued member of the team and has proven to be a creative and understanding support for SMEs in Greater Manchester.
Not all robots are destined to look like Sophia. Walking, talking, humanoid robots seem to be getting the lead roles in most sci-fi films in recent times, and this image of a superpowered human replacement fills us real humans with a conflict of emotion; fear, disgust, concern, intrigue… But every robot, every automated function they are programmed to do stems from our own imagination, from the living, breathing, feeling machines that are the humans who invent them.
We built robots to help us, so why do we hesitate to embrace them? Robots and automation should not be seen as replacing us, replacing jobs and eliminating the need for humans in the workplace, but rather that they enhance our productivity, increase safety, and help create new jobs in engineering, programming and maintenance.
What are we already doing with robotics, AI and automation?
Many large scale Manufacturers and SMEs currently use robotics, artificial intelligence and automation to handle repetitive, high-volume production activities. This might include welding, assembling, shipping, packaging, and handling raw materials, along with countless other purposes. We use this technology to assist and enhance what is already being done, for example, programming a robotic arm to weld specific parts together, or using the cloud to move a product seamlessly from idea to full scale manufacture.
For SMEs, where a lack of budget and people might be a cause for limited productivity and smaller-scale goal-setting, the good news is that pricing for assistive hardware and software is dropping as the technology becomes more widely available, making the prospect of long-term ROI more attainable.
How is robotics developing and why should we invest in new technology?
Robots are getting smarter, with more intricate digital integrations, connectivity and programming capabilities, robotics are becoming more bespoke to the individual needs of a business and better connected with other technology around them.
Robots allow us to make better use of data to inform operations, sending real-time information to cloud-based computing systems, playing their part in the Internet of Things. That data can then be used by the operator and the machine itself depending on the technology, as a learning device, with some robots able to learn as they go and adapt to their environment, just the way a human employee would do.
Flexible Manufacturing systems link several machine tools together, and all aspects of the system are controlled by a central computer. Distinguished from an automated production line by the FMS ability to process more than one product style at once, this makes for a new form of production line by which each machine in the system may be processing a different part type at any given time.
RaaS, or Robotics as a Service, leverages the cloud to enable the integration of robots and embedded devices into cloud computing environments. This essentially creates a live ecosystem of technology, making maintenance, integration and access to data more efficient across the system.
More powerful sensors make robots more interactive learners, able to adapt quickly, efficiently, and more accurately to their environment, and minimise operational interruptions. You may have seen smaller, mobile robots like Boston Dynamics’ Spot who uses sensors to navigate their way around the space, capturing footage and crossing difficult terrain in the process.
Scalable and easier to programme, robots are becoming increasingly more commonplace, particularly in manufacturing and construction, paving the way for more intuitive design and functionality.
Free up manpower and lead to more efficient operation, by way of shifting the human tasks to a more high-level, less physically repetitive role. Robots can be programmed to run 24/7, meaning that while employees go home to rest, production never ceases.
Robots generate new jobs, since we need engineers, programmers, and technicians to maintain our technological friends. Not only this, but by delegating repetitive tasks to robots, human employees can put their bodies and minds to use in other areas.
RaaS and European Colocation
Managing the data that your robotics can provide you might not be practical on your own property, maybe not even on local shores. European colocation is predicted to rise significantly since BREXIT, due to the fact that physically placing your data in the hands of a European-based cloud service should ensure that your data handling is more compliant to GDPR standards without you having to worry about it. It’s important to ensure that if you are investing in a cloud operating system that this should be in a safe, secure environment, managed by a trustworthy source. Whether you’re looking at colocation or hiring an internal team to manage your data, if you’re investing money in robotics, data management should be at the top of your list of priorities as well.
Industrial innovation runs deep in the veins of manufacturers, and Manchester’s industrialists have always been at the forefront of revolution. We now have the opportunity to lead industrial changes again, this time as a digital and technological revolution, through the integration of robotics, automation and machine learning.
If you’re a manufacturing SME ready to start doing #BusinessAbnormal, you might be eligible for our fully funded support programme, through which you can bolster your team with skills, and work towards business growth with the help of our Business Change Specialist.
Request a call back from the team here, or give us a call on 0161 237 4444.
The Growth Company is an award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to enable growth, create jobs and improve lives. We provide individuals and businesses with a wide range of services that improve employment, skills, investment and enterprise for the benefit of all, and have been working in the Greater Manchester city region for more than 30 years.
This project receives funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.
The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme.
Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.