Trend topics are future toopics - automatica provides answers

As the leading trade fair for intelligent automation and robotics, automatica focuses on the key future trends: How do you find future-proof answers to the pressing questions of digitisation? What are the central challenges of human-machine collaboration or artificial intelligence?

Digital transformation in manufacturing—A quantum leap into smart production

 Trend topic digital transformation at automatica

What does Industry 4.0 mean for your company? Is digitalization fun? What were the first steps? These are some of the questions that we asked German SMEs. Learn how users from different sectors started to implement digitalization—or how they are planning to do so.

The fourth industrial revolution is just around the corner. After the steam engine, the assembly line and electronics, now we can look forward to the intelligent networking of all components that are relevant to production. Companies expect a quantum leap in productivity, flexibility and efficiency.

The concept of Industry 4.0 originated in Germany. It gives the working world entirely new business models and prospects. The smart factory of the future will organize and constantly optimize its production processes on its own.

Those who get on board early can secure themselves some significant competitive advantages. Robotics and automation play a key role in making the smart factory a reality.

automatica also features a separate platform for intelligent, digitally networked working environments: IT2Industry. Exciting presentations and discussions with international experts await you in the supporting program of automatica 2020.

Manufacturing individual products

The vision of intelligent value chains that link all phases of a product's lifecycle takes things one step further. All product phases—from the idea to development, production, use, maintenance and recycling—are intertwined. Being networked in this manner will allow you to also produce individual products to customers' specifications more easily in the future.

Profit from human creativity

What will your human employees do in this scenario? Relieved of routine tasks, they can devote themselves to more creative endeavors. After all, human beings are unique when it comes to judgment, creativity and the ability to handle things with tact and sensitivity. These human strengths will also—and especially—be needed in the factory of the future.

What is the status of digital transformation in manufacturing now?

The first smart factories are already in operation. However, several steps are still needed to make this vision a reality. Above all, it is important to develop open, secure and trustworthy standards for big data—particularly when it comes to data ownership and use.

Human-robot collaboration—co-worker made of steel

Trend topic men and machines at automatica

A brand new generation of robots is marketable and making its way into the factories. Cobots were designed to be collaborative assistants. They work directly alongside their co-workers. These teams combine the creativity of human workers with the robots' technical capabilities.

Until now, robots carried out their lightening-fast movements behind protective safety fences. Robots and workers were strictly separated from one another. However, robotics just entered a new chapter: Now cobots work alongside workers in the same working space.

Experience groundbreaking man-machine collaboration at automatica

automatica is the only trade fair that gives you access to the latest industrial robots as well as future-proof service robots. This is the only place that you can see future generations in both categories live in actual use—rounded out by a supporting program with exciting lectures and discussions with international experts.

Create more safety with sensors

Direct human-robot collaboration (HRC) is possible because of new safety technology. Cobots use sophisticated sensor technology that gives them sensory perception and a more refined sense of precision. As a result, they avoid dangerous collisions with their human co-workers.

Cobots move slower than robots. In many cases, they slow down even further if people come near them. As a rule, they are lighter, rounder and, in some cases, even come with soft padding. The ISO has already published its own technical specification that regulates safe collaboration between people and cobots.

Employees accept their new steel co-workers

Interacting with one another directly, people and robots play to their respective strengths. Companies profit from a great deal of optimization potential in their production processes.

Experiencing human-robot collaboration for the first time is encouraging. Workers tend to accept their new co-workers quickly. They report being relieved of strenuous tasks and improved working conditions. A preliminary study by the University of Wisconsin came to this conclusion.

In many cases, workers even give their new co-workers human names: The cobot at the Festo factory in Scharnhausen, Germany is named “Uschi,” which stands for “UltraSCHneller Industrieroboter” (ultra-fast industrial robot) in German.

Intuitive programming by guiding hands

The current generation of cobots is supposed to be as easy for people to control as possible. Thanks to machine vision system and sensors, cobots can communicate with the surrounding infrastructure simply and reliably. Like human trainees, cobots let workers show them how to perform new tasks. The trainer guides the cobot's hands through the desired process—and in doing so programs the necessary movement.

Reorganize the division of labor: Intelligent, flexible and creative

The cobots' innovative, flexible capabilities play a key role, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. They offer a attractive alternative in addition to full automation and pure manual labor.

The use of cobots promotes a more intelligent division of labor between man and machine. For example, the cobot can take care of monotonous, dangerous or physically strenuous tasks while the worker focuses on complex assembly work and creative troubleshooting. Human-robot teams adapt to new processes quickly, allowing companies to produce more cost-effectively, even when it comes to extremely small batch sizes.

An effective way to improve ergonomics and prolong performance

Other important aspects for the future include improved ergonomics and ensuring the human employees' ability to work longer. Workers who have to perform ergonomically unfavorable tasks such as assembling things overhead can be relieved by robot assistance. They stay healthy and are capable of working into old age. Many pioneer users see this as an important potential solution for demographic change.

The evolution of artificial intelligence

Trend topic artificial intelligence at automatica

Artificial intelligence will also bring about some dramatic changes for human employees in the workplace. They will have more responsibility than ever in the factory of the future. They will have to coordinate complex processes, control interdisciplinary communication and make decisions on their own.

After decades of intense automation, one thing is clear: It has improved the workplace, made the economy more productive and saved jobs.

Artificial intelligence is becoming intelligence augmentation

But now machines are on the verge of thinking for themselves. Are we really entering an era in which machines will overtake human beings? That is the scenario put forth by artificial intelligence. But there is also an alternative concept known as intelligence augmentation (IA), which is using machine intelligence to strengthen or expand human intelligence. Designs for self-driving cars illustrate the different approaches. In the first scenario, the steering wheel disappears and the driver becomes a passenger. In the second scenario, the driver's steering wheel remains intact, but the vehicle prevents traffic accidents by intervening in dangerous situations.

We are stronger together

The fact is: As digitalization progresses, it is empowering machines. So does that mean less activity and responsibility for people? Or will clever machines offer support to improve specific human activities? Human beings are still unique when it comes to judgment, creativity and the ability to handle things with tact and sensitivity.

Using artificial intelligence to augment these skills has a great deal of potential. Until now, teams trumped individuals. After several tries, the “Deep Blue” mainframe computer beat the world champion in chess. But to this day, that same computer has yet to win against a team consisting of good chess players, a commercially available laptop and special chess software.

The future is asking important questions

The future of the workplace is not likely to be a race of “man against the machine,” but instead a competition of multiple teams in keeping with the motto “man with the machine.” However, that also brings up a number of essential questions.

What powers can be assigned to augmented brains? Who is liable in an emergency? What opportunities will be available to low-skilled workers on future job markets? Do we need a training offensive? In the end, will we have more jobs, or less? What alternatives do we have as we shape the working world of the future?

Will “augmented people” lose key capabilities? Or will they achieve new heights in creativity? And will intelligent machines demand their own rights some day?

Gain insights into Work 4.0 at automatica

The leading trade fair for intelligent automation and robotics gives you access to all relevant key technologies for the future of working—and allows you to experience Work 4.0 in the process. Our first-rate supporting program deals with this future topic in exciting presentations and discussions with international experts.