Robotics technology involves design, development and application of robots for managing a variety of tasks without needing human efforts. Today, robots are used for a huge number of applications in several industries that include military, manufacturing, telecommunications, healthcare, consumer durables, and so on. Independence on robotics has increased in past few years because of which the working environments in various industries have changed. Asia and Australia are the regions that are rising fast in adopting robotics for industrial usage and most of them are purchased from developed countries.
An artificial intelligence company from Brisbane plans to expand into Australia and Asia market for which it is planning to adopt robotics technologies in its current operational units including manufacturing, mining, and transportation. Robotics is expected to bring down the operational costs of the manufacturing units of the company as well as increase productivity of workers. For the implementation of Robotics in its operations, the company needs to create a five year plan. Before any adoption plan can be made, it would be important to conduct a research on various areas and concepts of robotics including definition, applications, types, challenges, advantages and disadvantages. Based on the study a five year plan can be developed for the adoption and implementation of Robotics in key operations of AI organizations for which appropriate recommendations would be made.
Robotics is an engineering discipline which involves designing, development and application of robots for managing certain tasks automatically without involving humans.
Current use of robots
The first industry to adopt robotics in a manufacturing environment was automobile industry in which robots were introduced for the assembling of car parts. In current times, robots are utilized for performing those tasks that are difficult for humans to carry out or can be dangerous for human lives such as military operations, mining, transportation in treacherous paths, and so on. Robots also find their application in household work such as vacuum cleaning, ironing, lawn mowing, and more such domestic areas (Cappella J, 2001).
Industries are continually growing with the adoption of robotics and this has changed the ways they operate. Even governments have been in support of the development of robotics. Queensland State Government is running a program under which coding and robotics are being taught to young State School students. These programs can make the students better problem solvers from the early age. Humanoids can also help disabled students in improving their communication skills.
Robotics has been adopted in many industries today that include military, healthcare, telecommunications, consumers, and so on. In telecommunications, robots can be controlled with wireless facilities like Wi-Fi-, Bluetooth, and tethered connections to internet. These controlled robots can be used for various applications such as space exploration like Mars Exploration Rovers and Hubble space telescope, mining exploration using remotely operated vehicles, systems used in biomedicine experiments such as Invasive surgical systems (Bauml & Hirzinger, 2006).
In Military, robots can be used in places that are not safe for human exploration. An ART, which is a military robot, can dispose of explosive materials safely. Some more examples of military robots include Dragon Runners, REDCAR, Talon Robots, MATILDA, ARTS and URBOT.
In Medicine, robotics is majorly used for surgical operations such as radio surgeries, gastrointestinal surgeries, neurosurgeries, and cardiothoracic surgeries. An example of robotics in healthcare is Da Vinci Robot which is a robot with three arms that are used for carrying miniature cameras inside the human body to capture 3D images of the human body. Wakamaru is another robot which is used in healthcare for giving company to elderly or ill people. Robot injection devices, minimally invasive surgical systems, and ZEUS Robotical Surgery Systems are some more popular robotic systems (Carroll, 2017). Other medical applications of robotics include cardiology, gynaecology orthopaedics, and paediatrics, urology.
Consumer robots are used for entertainment or communication applications. Some of the consumer robots include AkaZawa's Desktop PLEN Robot, Wow-wee Robosapien V2, and Wow Wee Robopanda. Industrial robots can increase production in a given time they can automate some repetitive tasks such as welding, painting, packaging, palletizing, assembling, pickup, inspection and testing.
Types of Robots
Based on the applications, robots can be categorized into small, low payload, medium payload, heavy duty, and special purpose robots. There are some major producers of industrial robots that include ABB, Hyundai, OTC, Panasonic, Toshiba, and Kuka Robotics. Besides the application, Robots can also be classified using some other criterion such as movement, architecture, and brand. Robots can be divided into articulated, Cartesian, cylindrical and polar robots.
Articulated robots: Articulated robots have a base over which a robotic arm is connected through a rotary joint. There can be several arms connected by rotary joints. Articulated robots are flexible as they allow movement through any joint.
Cartesian robots: Cartesian robots use Cartesian coordinates and have prismatic joints that are used for linear motions. Some applications of Cartesian robots include sealing, stacking, and transferring.
Cylindrical robots: Cylindrical robots have both rotary joint that rotates with the base and prismatic joint that moves linearly.
Polar Robots: Polar robots are also called spherical robots as they use a twisting joint to connect the arm with the base such that they can combine rotary with linear movements. These robots are capable of enhancing productivity, increasing production efficiency, and reducing operational risks (Implement Partners, 2016).
Expansion into Australian and Asia
The demand for robotics is increasing in Asia. In the year 2015, the sales of industrial robots in Asia had increased by 19% than in 2014. 89% of these sales were made by China, Japan, and South Korea where China contributed 43% as reflected in the World Robotics Report 2016 (Carroll, 2017). In Asia, Thailand and India are promising markets for the growth of robotics in Asia and they have brought 2,600 and 2,100 robotic units in 2015 (IFR, 2016). Considering these figures, the organization would have good opportunity for expansion in Asia through the use of robotics.
Robotic technology Adoption StrategyAdvantages & Disadvantage of Robotics
Robotics brings several advantages for an industrial application such as:
- Robotic technologies can enhance productivity of workers and throughput of production systems in a manufacturing unit which in turn can reduce the cost of production lead by performance improvements.
- As robotic technologies increase process efficiencies in a production unit with automation, the production cycle times are also reduced leading to faster and more production per hour
- Robots are more precise and accurate in their work as compared to humans ad thus, the product manufactured is more reliable and of better quality.
- Robots do not need rest or space for relaxation and thus, they can be made to work in limited space which means organization can have a better space utilization of the manufacturing unit.
- Material utilization is less with less error, reduced wastage, and more accurate prediction of material requirement by robots
- With robotics technology automating processes, delays are less and thus, production schedules are more optimal which helps a company serve customers faster and get higher customer satisfaction.
- Robotic technologies can integrate multiple production processes including welding, handling, packing, cutting, and palletizing (JEVTIC & ANDINA, 2007).
Manufacturing organizations can also face certain challenges while adopting robotics such as:
- Robotic technologies need significant investments that can reduce the cash flows and reserves of the company and thus, the company that has significant capital to invest and sustain before getting returns can adapt to the new technology.
- The need for robotics must be accurately identified to avoid overuse or underuse of the same as they can have negative implications on an organization such as loss of revenues if underutilization and loss of profits if over utilized.
- As robotics technology is relatively new in the industry, people have to be train extensively on the use of robotics before it is used in an organization if avoided to save on time or money can later cause major difficulties in operations (RObotWorx, 2017).
- With robotics, dependency on automation is increased in people who make them less smart in handling complexities when systems are down.
- Fully automated robotic systems are very costly and thus, organization may make use of partially automated robots that can be operated by humans. In such a case, the efficiency of worker plays a significant role in bringing the best out of the robotics usage. Thus, highly equipped people are required to handle such jobs.
- Robotic machines require significant level of maintenance which can be cost to the company and thus, can affect profitability of its operations (Joordens, Eega, Jaimes, & Jamshidi, 2008).
- With robotics deployed, some employees who may be doing repetitive manual tasks would be laid off which can create bad reputation for the company in the job market and would also lead the morale of workers down.
- In certain settings, ethical concerns are raised such as security risks due to hacking of robotics that can cause damage to humans as hackers can then use robotic devices to either damage company operations or commit specific crimes(LIN, BEKEy, & ABNEY, 2009).
Potential solutions for risks
There are some major risks that can be faced with the adoption of robotics but these risks can be managed in following ways:
High dependence on Robotics: If the opportunity and need for the use of robotics is appropriately identified, company can ensure that robotics is used only where it is needed and not in places where human use can still give required results without additional investments.
Employment Loss: People can lose jobs when robotics is introduced but they would only be people who are adept at managing only single monotonous task that can be managed by robots. If the employees are trained on multitasking or the brain work, they would not lose their jobs as they would still have ways to contribute to the organization after implementation of robotics (Jackson & Eddy, 2000).
Security Risks: Most robots are connected with internet today for enabling real time communication and sharing of the status of processes with other robotic devices or with the world. This exposes them to security threats as hackers can use internet to hack these devices and take control of the associated processes run in an organization. Some examples of such situations had affected the companies in major ways such as blackouts caused by hacking of electrical grid and damage to critical infrastructure of organizations by hackers. Thus, it is essential the organizations using robotics make use of advanced security technologies to protect their systems from security risks today.
High Cost: Robotics implementation requires significant funds but at the same time, also presents the potential for its efficient usage in such a way that huge returns can be gained thereby overtaking the investments by saving the company more money or bringing in more revenues for the organization. With the use of robotic, productivity can be enhanced, operational costs can be saved and process efficiencies can be enhanced that would lead to more saving and more profits thereby overcoming the drawback of high cost of implementation. Further, it would enhance the delivery times which would increase customer satisfaction and bring in more loyalty in them which would further add to the company growth as more revenues can then be expected resulting from loyalty and positive word of mouth spread (businessknowledgesource.com, 2013).
This paper explored the case of an Artificial Intelligence organization that is planning to expand its operations in Asia and Australia for which it wants to implement robotics in its mining, production and transportation services. The study identified various applications of robotics including their types and their differences. The advantages as well as challenges that are faced by the organization with the adoption of robotics are also explored. It was found that robotics in industrial setting can have significant benefits for an organization such as increased efficiency of processes, enhanced accuracy, faster deliveries, operational cost advantages, and so on. However, robotics also present some risks and challenges for the organization adopting it such as employment loss, increased dependence on technology, risk to humans, security risks to critical infrastructure, and more. Some of these risks can be overcome while others can be justified by taking appropriate measures that were discussed in the report. Based on these understandings, an adoption plan for Ai company is presented in the next section of this report.
Based on the lessons from the study conducted on robotics, an implementation plan for the coming five years is presented which would take following steps:
Identification of Opportunities: First, the opportunities of the implementation of robotics are identified for each of the unit operators of the company including mining, manufacturing and operations. Some of these include:
Mining: Robots can be used for
- navigating through hidden paths such as tunnels
- Unloading objects
- Detecting objects at different places
- Navigating through underground space
- Automating machinery used for mining operations
- Drilling inside mines for creating carving(Nanda, Dash, Acaharya, & Mohrana, 2010).
Manufacturing and Transportation: In manufacturing and transportation, company can use robotics for
- Managing inventory in warehouses
- For managing distribution processes
- For automating assembly and production operations such as through the use of conveyors, sorters, and pickers
- Objects, parts or products that are heavy can be loaded or unloaded as need arises
- Certain robotic systems are customized and comprehensive that can manage a sequence of operations such as scanning of bar codes, packing, picking parcels m sorting them and identifying the best loading sequence (K?ckelhaus, Huber, Niezgoda, & Bischoff, 2016).
This process of opportunity identification can take up to 4 months.
Validate Opportunities: The opportunities that are identified in the previous stage can be validated by users and manager of the company. The validation can be done on the basis of the transactional benefits that the company may receive from robotics. This would help in formulating appropriate design for robotics technology implementation. This validation can take around 2 months.
Develop Design Model: based on the opportunities identified for each operation including mining, manufacturing and transportation, designs can be developed for the implementation of robotics such that the benefits can be maximized with the implementation. Design models can be customized based on eh requirements of the codes, system upgrades, and more. This process can take up to 5 months before a design is finalised for implementation.
Implementation Planning: In the implementation stage, processes are automated with an aim to reach an automation level of 75% in the manufacturing unit using robotic devices. A plan would be prepared for practical implementation of the design model considering impacts of decision s on each business process. This would take 2 months to finalise and approve the plan.
Pilot Phase: Before the new system is made live for everyone in the organization, a pilot phase would be run in which the system would be run for a fixed duration and only for a fixed number of uses such that the time can be used for testing to understand if the system is operating as per expectations. In this stage, if there are any requirements that are not met or there are any bugs causing troubles, steps can be taken for rectification before the actual launch of the system for the whole organization. This process would take 5 months for each company department or unit including manufacturing, mining, and transportation.
Roll Out: This is the final stage of implementation when the robotics technology that clears the pilot stage is implemented company wide. It would also involve training of the users or employees who would be using robotics systems. The organization has to prepare for a big change that would be brought about at this stage by lying off some employees and brining in a cultural transformation on the organization compelling employees to focus on results. The employees who would be using robotic devices would have to be provided an extensive training and guided documentation for the regular use of new systems.
Identify Opportunities for use of robots
Validation of opportunities
Pilot Phase I - Manufacturing
Factory Roll out
Pilot Phase I - Mining
Pilot Phase I - Transportation
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