Manufacturing and robotics are natural companions, and the images of rigid, single-arm robotic installations on a factory floor are very familiar. The new breed of robots, however, is more mobile, more integrated with human activities, and—most important—can learn new skills and generate new insights on-the-job. These new-generation robots are not confined to a single workspace or task; they can both learn from and generate real-time data that flows through control, planning, and logistics systems.
What is the end result? Both they and their human counterparts can make better decisions, sometimes in milliseconds, which improve productivity, safety, profitability, and product design.
These human-robot partnerships can cause dramatic shifts in how manufacturers work and the skills they require. Far beyond just acquiring a robot, manufacturers will need to design holistic strategies that combine innovative thinking, workflow design, operational integration, collaborative partnerships, advanced analytics, and an anthropological sensitivity for how human workers think and feel.