While Industry 4.0 is talked about all over the world as a digital interconnect to build smart factories, there is another trend that is built on machine and human collaboration. The renaissance of the demand for human creativity is a response to market developments, where customers demand highly individualized products - such as we see today in the automotive industry.
In many theoretical discussions, the ultimate goal of Industry 4.0 is a factory with "off lights", a fully automated production facility without the presence of human workers. There are already factories that are close to this ideal. One of them is the Philips electric shaver production facility in the Netherlands, whose only human workers are nine exit control specialists. But in Universal Robots, we think that industrial production will not develop in this direction, but rather the phenomenon of connecting people and robots known as Industry 5.0.
Robots don't replace people
According to an Accenture survey, 85% of manufacturing companies see "connecting workforce" as one of the major trends they will introduce into their production processes over the next three years. While robots are unrivaled in the production of standard products, in standardized processes and in high volumes, people bring the uniqueness required by today's customers to every product, every series. And that brings human workers back into play.
It is not possible to fully replace people with robots because people have the skills that robots will probably never have. They are still "silly" machines that do nothing but accept instructions and generate data. They have no knowledge of production processes, they do not feel the wishes of customers, they do not have human creativity and experience. What we see today on the market is the future associated with collaborative robots (robots) where robots and people complement each other and eliminate the weaknesses of the other.
Although there are a number of opinions about the loss of a significant number of jobs in the industry, for example, according to the International Federation of Robotics, between 2019 and 2022, cobots will only create 70 to 90,000 new jobs in the food industry.
Whether we mark the upcoming trend as Industry 5.0 or another term, we believe that the concept of Cobots is the answer not only to these but also to the more complex requirements of small-scale production of highly personalized products.
With their flexibility, ease of use, deployment speed and return on investment in six to twelve months, cobots are huge technological and business opportunities for businesses in all industries.
Slavoj Musílek has worked as Director for Central and Eastern Europe at Universal Robots since 2015. He has experience in business development and management in major companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Computer Associates, Juniper Networks and Rockwell Automations. He graduated from the Czech Technical University, specializing in technical cybernetics. He is married and lives in Prague.