Lightweight Assistive Manufacturing Solutions
A whitepaper, titled “An initiative to enhance SME productivity through fit for purpose Information and Robotic technologies” was launched on Wednesday 8 May 2013 at National Manufacturing Week in Melbourne. It has been drafted based on in-depth interviews with SMEs from Queensland and Victoria.
An initiative to enhance SME productivity through fit-for-purpose Information and Robotic technologies (see Guardian)
Facing increasing operational costs, skills shortages and comparatively low productivity growth, manufacturers are in need of alternative solutions that give them the flexibility to respond to volatile demand, leading to an increase in productivity in the form of an affordable investment. Industrial automation currently available is not flexible enough, designed for high volume, low variation processes and hence economically unviable for small and medium-sized businesses (99 per cent of industry). Moreover, current technology is designed to improve productivity by replacing the workforce, a strategy that is not considered suitable to the Australian SME sector, as one of their key competitive advantages is the innovation that is generated on the manufacturing line. Recent advances in robotics and information and communications technologies (ICT) are leading towards the convergence of close collaboration between worker and robot.
Advances in sensor technology are also enabling the ability to perceive the dynamic manufacturing environment, with this digital information stream providing a safer work environment with improved quality and productivity outcomes. Through its research into the Australian SME sector, CSIRO foresees the enhancement (rather than a replacement) of manufacturing workers with assistive information technologies and robotics-based technologies as a profound enabler for Australian SME’s economic success. This paper describes how current CSIRO advances in the field of ICT can be combined into Lightweight Assistive Manufacturing Solutions to lift workplace productivity and increase competitiveness – creating new business opportunities for Australia. It also explores the implications of these solutions in future manufacturing.