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The viewpoint section analyses ideas from industry leaders to hit the point of dilemma of the everincreasing sides of humans with machines.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Enhancing human ergonomics with robots

Jan 31, 2017

Currently, Industry 4.0 and IIoT are all set to unleash machine machine and human-machine collaboration with smart manufacturing practices and intelligent automation systems. Will this lead to decrease of factory employment or will there be any change in the distribution of personnel between various operational/business roles? There are mixed opinions across industry sectors. Some believe that this will lead to machines so intelligent and able to coordinate themselves that they will completely replace human labour. While others are of the opinion that regardless of the complexity of the implemented algorithms, the interpretative skills and the decision-making characteristic of the human brain will always be necessary. The viewpoint section analyses ideas from industry leaders to hit the point of dilemma of the everincreasing sides of humans with machines. A read on…

“Focussing on practical aspects in manufacturing”-

P V Sivaram, Managing Director,B&R Automation India

What kind of manufacturing transformation do you see on the shopfloor in future, in the age of smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0?

The autonomy is increased, firstly, by the degree of automation, and even more so, by machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. Leaving philosophical and psychological speculations aside, we will focus on the practical aspects of manufacturing. The fourth industrial revolution is not only about manufacturing, but also has many other aspects – commercial, marketing, business management, sociological aspects. However, a huge impact will be on manufacturing, which will include not only how a shopfloor is organised and run, but also what will be manufactured, how the decision-making will happen, how contingency and recovery plans will be devised and set into operation.

Automation is delivering a two-folded journey. On one side, it automates the entire work process, and on the other, it substantiates humans with thinking machines. What is your take on this?

Jobs can be mapped on two dimensions – variety and analysability. More variety states that it is less routine and needs flexible and agile thinking as well as learning on the fly. Low analysability states that it is more difficult to describe the actions needed to produce a result. It is difficult to prescribe a recipe or algorithm for execution. Therefore, it is clear that jobs, which have low variety and high analysability are easy to automate, whereas at the other end are the jobs, which are challenging

Will humans continue to play an integral role in production in the period of the fourth industrial revolution and smart manufacturing? How can workers be empowered to learn new skills to do more with technology?

The drivers for Industry 4.0 and for IIoT are not the same. Even if closely related, they are not purely business results. There are compulsions from the political community arising out of globalisation, there are incentives for the scientific community and there are challenges of sustainability, food-safety, energy-efficiency, environment protection, etc. From the consumer community comes the demands for better products, higher customisation and cost-efficiency. Therefore, the business community faces the challenge to stay profitable. So, the march towards technological advancements will continue, and machines will talk to each other in languages and at a speed that humans cannot comprehend. The change in technology will not happen as a quantum leap, it is rather a change in many small steps.

“Automation is an enabler of human-efficiency improvement”

Arunkumar J, Associate Director—Automation & Electronics, Frost & Sullivan

What kind of manufacturing transformation do you see on the shopfloor in future, in the age of smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0?

The shopfloor of the future will focus on reducing input for the same output and increasing output for the same input. Seamless interface and interconnectivity between diverse assets will determine transformation of the shopfloor and this is crucial for real-time performance management and customer centricity. The smart factory of the future will enable sustainable management of resources, reduce- time-to-market, ensure collaborative competitiveness and reduce risks. The shopfloor dynamics will also witness changes with the need for employee skills up-gradation to suit the new ecosystem. With an increasingly globalised manufacturing environment, Industry 4.0/Advanced Manufacturing will become a quintessential part of the manufacturing revolution in India.

Automation is delivering a two-folded journey. On one side, it automates the entire work process, and on the other, it substantiates humans with thinking machines. What is your take on this?

Automation is an enabler of human-efficiency improvement and not a replacement for humans. Challenges related to skilled workforce will drive manufacturers to adopt strategies, such as human-centred design, role-tailored software approaches to aid intelligence and ease the decision-making process. While human intelligence cannot be replaced, the focus will be on manufacturing approaches that allow humans to be more efficient. Artificial intelligence, simulator training and safety robots will find dramatic adoption. There are virtual reality-based training solutions that can facilitate workforce to do more with technology.

Will humans continue to play an integral role in production in the period of the fourth industrial revolution and smart manufacturing? How can workers be empowered to learn new skills to do more with technology?

Humans will be an integral part of the future of manufacturing. Advanced automation solutions and robotics will only increase the need for higher number of skilled workforce with an ability to manage these systems and ensure customer centricity of the business. The need for unskilled or semi-skilled workforce may reduce. While the ‘Make in India’ programme targeted on enhancing India’s position as a global manufacturing powerhouse, there is also an important requirement to focus on enhancing the skill sets of the workforce. The empowerment of workforce can happen through a collaborative effort between the government, industry and associated industry bodies.

“Transforming the manufacturing world”

- Rajabahadur V Arcot, Automation Consultant

What kind of manufacturing transformation do you see on the shopfloor in future, in the age of smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0?

Developments taking place in IT are all set to transform the manufacturing industry. Taking into account the profound implications of this transformation, the German Government’s Federal Ministry of Education & Research and Federal Ministry of Economics & Technology collaborated and prepared the report, ‘Recommendations for implementing the strategic initiative Industry 4.0’ with a view to get Germany future-ready for the emerging manufacturing era. Industry 4.0 is the symbolic reference to the evolving Fourth Industrial Revolution that will be profoundly influenced by IIoT and Cyber-Physical systems (CPS), data analytics, etc. IIoT / CPS will collect massive amount of data from all activities associated with industry and data analytics will trawl through the data and generate information that can be acted upon to drive decisions. Internet and cloud computing will act as automation platforms with artificial intelligence and robotics playing a greater role.

Automation is delivering a two-folded journey. On one side, it automates the entire work process, and on the other, it substantiates humans with thinking machines. What is your take on this?

The IIoT architecture to gain industry acceptance requires achieving significant progress in the development of open software and communication standards, which are still at conceptual stages. The German alliance Platform Industry 4.0 is among the many organisations that is taking initiatives on these areas. Platform Industry 4.0 has taken the lead in launching ‘Standardisation Council Industry 4.0’. The aim of this initiative is to initiate standards on digital products and to coordinate these standards at national and international level.

While developing the IIoT platform and architecture, there is no need to present unsurmountable technical challenges; the true challenge is in establishing the value proposition for industrial companies that will enable them to justify funding. It is equally necessary to establish that the IIoT architecture, while ensuring modularity, inter operability, expandability, reusability, portability, adaptability, and scalability, is also intrinsically cyber secure.

Until recent times, the overall perception was that automation systems will essentially aid humans to be become more efficient and productive and, because they lack cognitive and perceptive skills, they were not perceived as a challenge to humans. However, these perceptions are rapidly getting challenged. Recent technological advances are making it possible to computerise and automate tasks that were considered as non-routine, only a decade ago.

Will humans continue to play an integral role in production in the period of the fourth industrial revolution and smart manufacturing? How can workers be empowered to learn new skills to do more with technology?

Some technological developments taking place will not only make many jobs redundant, but also significantly affect the current social norms and economic systems. Are we in a position to remain masters of our own destiny, is the question that arises in our mind.

"Robotic intervention makes humans more efficient at work”

- Yaduvendra Singh, Vice President & Global Head— Sales, Marketing & Solutions Group, GreyOrange

What kind of manufacturing transformation do you see on the shopfloor in future, in the age of smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 ?

Manufacturing involves a lot of repetitive processes. With industry 4.0, the shopfloor will have the capabilities to rapidly develop product prototypes and make the iterative changes. Prototyping will become viable as all stakeholders involved in the process (suppliers, manufacturers, and other service providers) will be situated in close proximity (manufacturing clusters). This will reduce the overall logistics cost and turnaround time. It also encourages intense collaboration as well as competition between the players.

Automation is delivering a two-folded journey. On one side, it automates the entire work process, and on the other, it substantiates humans with thinking machines. What is your take on this?

It is easy to automate processes that are mechanical and repetitive in nature, but machines cannot think like people. Robots are a combination of hardware and software that can execute most tasks that are repetitive, predictable, involve high volumes and do not need intellectual ability, interpersonal touch, or are hazardous in nature. Robots can perform these tasks at a much higher speed and accuracy. Therefore, these complement humans at workplace. It allows humans to skill up and take high-value jobs.

Will humans continue to play an integral role in production in the period of the fourth industrial revolution and smart manufacturing? How can the workers be empowered to learn new skills to do more with technology?

Robotic intervention only makes humans more efficient at work. In the last decade, there have been tremendous advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence technologies. When computers were introduced, globally people thought that they will take away millions of jobs. Instead, computers have only had a positive impact on the work scenario, creating smart jobs for humans and have made humans more efficient.

Automation will help automate processes that are high-volume, repetitive, wearisome, and hazardous in nature, in the same time period, allowing a substantial job growth. While automation, there will be a high demand for these who conceptualise, design, program, manufacture, and repair those robots. We will also require skilled technicians to operate or monitor these robotics systems. To be smart and adaptive, robots need to be coached and watched over by humans. This again emphasises the fact that robotics will require highlyskilled programmers, technicians and operators.

Image Gallery

  • P V Sivaram, Managing Director, B&R Automation India

  • Arunkumar J, Associate Director— Automation & Electronics, Frost & Sullivan

  • Rajabahadur V Arcot, Automation Consultant

  • Yaduvendra Singh, Vice President & Global Head— Sales, Marketing & Solutions Group, GreyOrange

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