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Modern robots work hand-in-hand with humans, flexibly performing ever-changing tasks. AI makes this possible – creating immense potential especially for the manufacturing industry, where certain processes cannot be automated fully. This is the reason why management and strategy consultants McKinsey believe artificial intelligence will drive growth in Germany’s industrial sector .

What Computer Vision Makes Possible

AI is no longer just a thing of science fiction movies. Today, technological breakthrough are made almost daily. For instance, computer vision is advancing all the time. This function enables robots to be more human and 'considerate': They can adapt their behavior because they are aware of what is happening around them. Distance sensors make this possible, combined with software that can learn to distinguish people from objects. If a human gets too close to the robot, it stops moving.

Until now, conventional industrial robots could only perform actions that were clearly defined in advance. They were fenced in to protect humans from unexpected 'close encounters'. In contrast, collaborative robots help humans – making their jobs easier. In the production facility at BMW in Spartanburg (USA), cobots work right beside the employees . They operate them directly without having to stop the robots first.

Cobots Learn through Simulation

Some cobots can now imitate actions demonstrated by humans. For example, employees move Sawyer's robot arms (by Rethink Robotics) manually, showing the robot the steps it is to perform. The robot then optimizes the procedure autonomously by repeating it many times over. On the other hand, US auto manufacturer Ford relies on LBR iiwa by Kuka in its plants . The mass-produced lightweight robot helps install heavy vehicle components there. A McKinsey study estimates the productivity boost from this capability at up to 20% .

Cobots are becoming more and more interesting, especially for medium-sized companies, as they can change workstation easily. Experts believe that this gives companies maximum possible flexibility. Plant productivity is improved, and individual steps become more efficient . This means that even very small quantities can be produced highly efficiently and profitably.

Faster Error Detection

AI-based processes in manufacturing also provide significant assistance in detecting errors. Deep learning systems can find faults faster and better than humans. Test algorithms also cut down the number of problems in the manufacturing process, decreasing the reject rate. That reduces device and maintenance costs. Overall, this could cut the reject rate in production by up to 30% according to McKinsey .

The Future of Production Is Intelligent

The manufacturing industry needs artificial intelligence. Learn more about it at HANNOVER MESSE. International leading trade fair IAMD – Integrated Automation, Motion & Drives is the hotspot for Industrie 4.0. The fair presents new approaches and gives you an opportunity to talk to experts about the latest developments.