Comment: COVID-19 driving the adoption of flexible manufacturing
Published: 15 May 2020 - Rachael Morling
As draft government plans to ease anti-coronavirus restrictions in the workplace are revealed, Earl Yardley, director at Industrial Vision Systems, a supplier of machine vision systems to industries such as food & drink, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, comments...
“Manufacturers across many industries will be desperately keen to resume some normality when it comes to production sooner rather than later. However, it will quickly become evident that COVID-19 will propel the use of so-called “Industry 4.0” flexible manufacturing philosophies across factory floors. Many UK manufacturers are adopting smart factory systems such as robotics, automation and machine learning. We are witnessing an increasing number of factory floor managers making enquiries as they look to increase the number of collaborative robots operating side by side with human workers post-lockdown, to ease fears of picking up infections.
“Another growth area is automated bin-picking robots, which will become more prevalent in manufacturing – these allow vision and robotics to operate autonomously picking product from bins and totes, for example, to load machines, bag products or to produce sub-assemblies. By removing the operators from such operations allows factories to reopen with reduced human to human contact, increasing yield and helping to protect the rest of the workforce.
“We will see critical changes to working practices and automation deployment which will create new opportunities across manufacturing and engineering. This includes cutting edge production ideologies with vision robotics and an increasing ability to reduce human to human contact with the deployment of autonomous robotics. We see a growing demand for vision-guided robot systems to maintain production capacity and reduce dependence on the human workforce which will further drive the adoption of flexible manufacturing for generations to come.”