(Bobby Bono via National Association of Manufacturers)
Automating the movement of materials within manufacturing operations is nothing new. Indeed, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), conveyors, sorters and shuttles have been moving and handling materials, parts and product for decades. But now, thanks to advancements in sensor technology, 3D camera systems, software and artificial intelligence, these machines are increasingly capable of seeing their environments and, more importantly, learning to identify what they’re seeing. More and more, factories are becoming home to “free-range” robots capable of working beside humans wherever they’re needed.
Increasingly, semi-autonomous and even autonomous vehicles within manufacturing operations are gaining independence. Materials-handling robots, in particular, are making aggressive moves, most notably in warehouses and inventory management. Amazon, which has ramped up its warehouse automation, is a prime example. Just consider that, since 2014, Amazon has hired 50,000 new human workers at its warehouse facilities–while also adding 30,000 robots to work with them. Click here to read more.