Automation through machine is widespread in manufacturing in the metalworking world and consistently evolving with technologies such as Industry 4.0, Data Analytics and Predictive Maintenance. Nonetheless, machine shop operator should not jump into panic mode assuming the latter developments will take their place.
“Automation” is intimidating, more so when paired with “machine”. A piece by David Adkin from The Dartmouth noted firstly, the very existence of automation implies the loss of jobs. Automation is a way for companies to make jobs cheaper and more efficient through the use of technology.
Machines, big or small, are used in lieu of human labour. Companies may prefer to pay for one machine that can produce the same amount of goods to paying numerous human workers.
While this is a financially sound decision for companies, workers face unemployment. As economist and John French economics professor at Dartmouth Douglas Irwin pointed out in Foreign Affairs, automation has created a reality where many blue-collar jobs have become “obsolete”.
Chronicle Of Automation
Some sources noted our version of automation dates back to early 20th century. That was when Henry Ford introduced assembly line for mass production. This move propelled manufacturing efficiency and productivity.
Programmable controllers entered the ring in the middle of the 20th century, plus the development of electronic and computer technology. Combining manufacturing machinery with computer programmes did wonders for lines with repetitive and complex tasks.
Robots gained prominence subsequently in manufacturing and began performing tasks like welding, painting and assembling, notably with precision. Today, the world is buzzing with technology jargons such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and IoT (Internet of Things). Their exponential growth somehow exerted more pressure towards service, quality and efficiency.
Manufacturing players started to get acquainted with terms like “virtual reality”, “augmented reality” and even “preventative maintenance”. The common denominator among these are immediate data.
Even waiting for status report does not accommodate waiting times. Decisions need to be made within seconds to keep production running as downtime is equivalent to losses.
In a cutthroat manufacturing landscape, another business is always ready to take over your client’s account just because they have the bandwidth to produce the goods quicker and ideally at a lower rate. In other scenarios, having to wait for parts replacement just by operating in dated ways is also a deal breaker.
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