Automated Factories: A Discussion on Challenges in Automation

July 20, 2023
Although the technology required for a dark factory to be fully implemented is getting closer, considerations such as cost and certain mechanical functions are still a bit behind.

Other Videos in This Series

Guy Courtin, vice president of Industry and Advanced Technology at supply chain software and services business Tecsys Inc., spoke with Sharon Spielman, technical editor at Machine Design, about the concept of a dark, or “lights-out” facility. 

In this second part of a four-part video series, Courtin talks about the tremendous advances in robotics and mechanical engineeringas well as camera technology, visual technology, using data for identification, etc.but quickly points out that industry is still behind when it comes to picking, for instance. Why? “Because our human hands are still pretty darn good, and they are still mechanical...It’s amazing.”

READ MORE: Robots Open World of Opportunities for A3 President

Courtin notes that what we are seeing from a robotic and mechanical perspective is getting very close to being able to handle some, if not a lot, of the functions we might have in a factory or the warehouse that could then transform into a dark factory or warehouse. However, Courtin says, “This is where I think the real question is: at what cost?”

Why, he asks, is the technology not in more warehouses? “We still haven’t brought the costs down enough where any warehouse or factory is going to jump all over this,” he explains.

Change management is another concern. “It’s a very misunderstood and not-focused-upon issue when it comes to robotics and automation,” Courtin says.

When a disruptive technology is introduced to a facility that has “ritualistic” processes and procedures, inevitably change management will be needed. Courtin offers the example of a trickle-down flow that he encountered at a facility last year.

More Lights-out Manufacturing Coverage

Barely There: Replacing Manual Operations with Lights-out Processes

Dark Factories: Science Fiction or Reality?

Lights-out Manufacturing: Myths Versus Realities

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