One of the stories in International News in this issue is about the MPI Disruptive Technologies in Manufacturing Study. A press release about the report says that the study surveyed more than 400 executives at manufacturing companies around the globe and found that 88 per cent report that their industries and markets are vulnerable to disruptive technologies (29 per cent “extremely vulnerable” and 59 per cent “somewhat vulnerable”). 86 per cent report that their own companies are vulnerable to disruptive technologies (23 per cent “extremely vulnerable” and 63 per cent “somewhat vulnerable”). At the same time, these leaders have high hopes for new technologies along with concerns about how they will implement them.
The press release goes on to say: “With so much at stake – and with so much executive worry and hope – you might imagine that these leaders would have strategies in place to evaluate and implement emerging technologies at their firms. Yet less than half (49 per cent) have a company-wide strategy to evaluate emerging technologies. And a full 20 per cent are just now starting to develop such a strategy.”
“It’s time to push the panic button,” the report continues, “if you’re not yet taking a look at how emerging technologies will change your company’s manufacturing future.”
“Fortunately, the MPI study provides additional insights into where manufacturing executives see the most opportunity from emerging technologies, the issues and investments associated with adoption, the extent of implementation across industry, and the performance outcomes driven by emerging technologies.”
In October 2018 I visited EuroBLECH 2018 in Hannover, Germany where there was a big emphasis by exhibitors on digitalisation, artificial intelligence (AI) and Industry 4.0. I did not expect anything less at JIMTOF 2018 (Japan’s leading machine tool exhibition), which I visited shortly after EuroBLECH 2018, especially as the theme for the exhibition was ‘Connected by technology for the future’.
However, two of my takeaways from JIMTOF 2018 were: ‘Machine tools with new functions and structures’, one of the topics at the conference, and the collaboration between man, robots and machine tools – advancing automation.
The conference aside, the most noticeable aspect of JIMTOF 2018 was the use of robots in various situations, both with man and machine in attendance. Why, you ask, because robots have been around for some time in the machine tool industry. The answer is: Full automation with robots is a must going forward if companies want their Smart Factories to operate at maximum performance and productivity. The collaboration between robots, man and machine tools has therefore attracted much attention in recent years. As have humans working together with robots in factories. Many tasks on the shop floor can now be automated by using robots, which will help to reduce work-related losses as well as contribute to the bottom line.
The upcoming EMO 2019 – the world’s leading international machine tool exhibition due to take place in September 2019 – is going to reveal a whole host of innovations, including new ways of how man, robots and machine tools will collaborate in the future. The automation of various production processes with robots is going to intensify and machine tools in the future will be designed on the assumption that they are used with robots. Cobots are generally used in conjunction with people and use sensor technology to avoid harming people in the same work area. However, at JIMTOF 2018 there were a couple of examples on show where they were mounted on an AGV for machine tending. I have already been told that Mazak and Yaskawa have teamed up to give an example of how the cobot, AGV and machine can collaborate to increase automation and reduce labour.
Manufacturers will continue to need conventional robots with safety guarding to prevent people from entering the robots’ work area, especially when applications call for high speed or payload capacity, but there are more applications being developed.
To find out about these and many other technological developments put it on your bucket list and turn it into at least a once in a lifetime visit. In fact – make EMO 2019 a must visit.