Automatic for the people

It’s show-time once again, as the latest edition of the Paris-based JEC World composites show gets ready to roll into town.

In this issue, JEC Composites’ Frédérique Mutel highlights ‘automatization’ and the capacity for large series production as this year’s main theme. It’s a new word on me, but I know where she’s coming from: composite part production is currently too slow, manually intensive and just not repeatable enough.

Overall, it seems the composites manufacturing industry – driven in part by an increasing demand for the need to automate layup processes – is about to redraw the ‘evolution of man’ ape-to-homo erectus image by adding a robotic like swagger into the fourth industrial revolution, AKA, the Internet of Things.

But what about jobs, I hear you cry? Well, robots don’t make people redundant – companies do. Many jobs could result from just a few robots – and if robots aren’t in UK soon, then jobs soon won’t be either. Also, you have to question whether the jobs being replaced are really the ones that people should aspire to. Dead-end, boring jobs are unfulfilling and increase the risk of error if people are too bored or poorly motivated to do a good job. If by using automatization you make products better, then more people will buy them.

So, let’s not get too neurotic about all things robotic. Everyone loves a robot. As a young lad, I was fascinated by the bonkers television sci-fi TV show Lost in Space’s Robot as it clicked and whirred ‘does not compute’ in a spaceship that fortunately, didn’t contain too many stairs.

Clearly, automated systems are taking a firm mechanical hold of an industry faced with increasing production rate demands, but is the industry really ready for the rise of the robots? I’m sure JEC World will have all the computations!

Mike Richardson, editor


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