Factories of the future: transforming industry through robotics brings the hope of a more human relationship to work

Lyon, France, May 13, 2015 -- Recently published studies all agree on the big trends that are shaping smart factories or Industry 4.0:

  • Sustainable industry that minimizes energy consumption and waste production while incorporating recycling in the value chain. 
  • The integration of digital technology. The emergence of 3D printers is taking part in this transformation, though we don’t yet know exactly what their impact will be. 
  • Automation and “advanced” robotics are a given, with artificially intelligent systems, collaborative robots enabling the automation of new tasks and the use of robots at small and medium-sized companies. Digital transformation and robotics transformation converge in intelligent systems that are agile and flexible, with streamlined integration, improved programming and reduced implementation costs. 

This inevitably leads us to the question of the role human beings will play in the factory of the future, a question sometimes oversimplified and asked strictly in terms of impact on employment. Indeed, as industry drives a large share of the value creation in the European economy, Europe clearly needs to “re-industrialize”. Yet, the share of industry in the Continent’s GDP has fallen from 20% to 15% over the past 15 years.  

We are living in a fast-changing world full of uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. There is no simple answer to the question of “robotics and employment”. To be sure, we have to ready ourselves for a deep transformation of our society. In this case, why not adopt a more positive vision of how robotics can benefit industry, rather than simply echo the “doom-and-gloom” outlook of the future so often promoted? Whereas the futurist studies what tomorrow is going to look like, the visionary attempts to create a desirable future.

With this in mind, let us imagine a world where on factory assembly lines robots and humans work side-by-side, perfectly complementing one another. A world in which workers no longer have to carry heavy loads, and where difficult handling tasks are performed by intelligent vehicles. Originally a purely industrial solution, collaborative robots – “cobots” for short – are now becoming a solution for enhanced workstation ergonomics and for the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders.

Instead of measuring the solely economic impact, what if we measured improvement in workers’ quality of life, well-being and personal development thanks to the technological progress that Industry 4.0 offers? And what if more technological innovation, more investment in production machinery and more robots in factories enabled not only higher productivity and greater competitiveness, but also gave more meaning and humanity to our relationship to work?

Innorobo’s international cycle of conferences (from 1 to 3 July 2015 at Lyon’s Cité Internationale) addresses Factories of the Future with the contribution of researchers, entrepreneurs and visionaries from around the globe. Over 3 days, Innorobo unites a vast “business ecosystem” that interactively builds a shared vision of industry and of the economic spheres most heavily impacted by what robotics technologies can bring for a sustainable, desirable society.

The exhibitors at Innorobo 2015 and the conferences dealing with this topic are listed at the event site, http://innorobo.com/2015-exhibitors/, in the Factories of the Future tab.

Discover our panel of renowned speakers on the subject:

Rodney Brooks
Founder, Chairman and CTO - Rethink Robotics

How Collaborative Robots are Changing Manufacturing and Logistics

Collaborative robots that are safe to be next to, and easy to retrain for new tasks are changing how we think about industrial robots. Workspace no longer needs to be segregated into robots-only and humans-only, but instead robots and people can be working side by side. And by adding modern, easy to use, user interfaces, collaborative robots can be retasked by workers on the factory floor. This brings a new level of empowerment to workers, able to use sophisticated robots, offloading dull repetitive tasks to them, and letting the teams of robots and people be more productive. Working together this way in factories is the harbinger of how collaborative robots will ultimately be pervasive across our lives.

Andre Wegner
Founder and CEO - Authentise

The Power of Distributed Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing, or 3D printing, has matured from being a mere prototyping tool to an industry firmly focused on manufacturing. The freedom of design enabled by 3D printing can drive vast improvements in product performance, but supply chains, not industrial design, may end up being the most disrupted industry. 3D printing stands at the forefront of technology improvements that are promising to fully automate production and create the "factory in a box". Combining this disruptive potential with supply chain failure, including long lead times, lack of customization and fake parts, drives the next supply chain paradigm: distributed manufacturing.

Pascal Lafourcade
Assistant Professor - Industrial Chair on Digital Trust

Which security for the Factories of the Future

Today factories are using several machines that are controlled by humans. In the future, factories will be populated by machines, robots working together autonomously under the supervision of humans. In these new factories communication between different entities are one of the key points of such factories. However this change of paradigm might introduce new threats and offer new possibilities for an intruder to mount some attacks.

In this talk, I will describe main challenges and threats of the factories of the future. I will present that designing secure systems is not an easy task and it is an important feature to take into account from the design of such critical systems. Finally I propose to use formal methods to analyze and prove the security of such system before their deployment.

Fabien Bardinet
CEO - Balyo

The Next Generation Material Handling

Whether in manufacturing or in warehousing, labor is a considerable portion of the logistics function (up to 75%), but new technologies propose to significantly reduce this cost, by automating the basic logistics tool : the forklift.

While manufacturers and industry participants have been expecting technology to one day enable the automation of trucks, the market is still waiting for the right tool. One that is flexible, quickly deployable, granular, and financially attractive.
Some innovative companies are now making this a reality. The technologies are disruptive and proving to be a powerful cost cutter, whether in warehousing, or in manufacturing. Moreover, they finally allow a natural collaboration between men and robots, to end the paradigm that opposed them.

This session will cover, at a high level, the tremendous economic impact of such solutions. Two types of applications will be discussed, one in a warehouse environment, one in manufacturing.

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