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New Generation of Robots Will Force Cultural Change

Posted By Jeff Moad, August 20, 2014 at 4:54 PM, in Category: Transformative Technologies

A new generation of smart, mobile, autonomous, and relatively inexpensive robots is about to hit the manufacturing plant floor and supply chain. These include telepresence robots that let supervisors and engineers thousands of miles away see what’s going on in a plant and collaborate with workers there. They include mobile warehouse robots, and so-called companion robots such as Rethink Robotics’ Baxter which, while slower than traditional industrial models, is much easier to program, less expensive, and safer for human co-workers to be around. They even include exoskeletons—such as one being developed by ship-builder Daiwoo Shipbuilding that workers wear and that give them greater strength to lift and carry objects.

But introduction of such new technologies into the industrial workspace will bring challenges. One of the most important questions is how receptive plant workers will be to working side-by-side with mobile, relatively smart machines? Will they worry that the robots are out to take their jobs? And how willing will they be to change their processes to accommodate the robots? At the very least, say experts, some workers will require a good amount of training and education before they will mesh seamlessly with their new workmates.

What do you think? Will a new generation of robots require significant cultural change on the plant floor?

Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit


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