Driving innovation in manufacturing to fight the pandemic and avoid future crises. Resilient automation for manufacturing
While technologies such as robotics and automation were already on the rise before the pandemic, the ability of manufacturers to implement these technologies and ramp up production during the COVID-19 crisis became crucial in a number of industries. For manufacturers of vital medical equipment that faced unforeseen spikes in demand, it turned out to be a deciding factor. Integrating advanced manufacturing technologies into production steps that traditionally depend on human skills, is not only enabling manufacturers to respond quickly to the pandemic, it can also help them to gain a competitive advantage in post-COVID times and be better equipped to avoid future crises.
In the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, one of the main challenges, caused by unprecedented demand for essential medical products, was the shortage of components. At the same time, the manufacturers’ flexibility to adapt and develop agile production lines played an equally critical role.
The well-known benefits of robotics, automation and IT-based manufacturing technologies include increased productivity and profitability. With the emerging industry 5.0 approach that puts workers’ wellbeing at the centre, these technologies could be further improved with new human-centric workflows and human-robot-co-working. As a result, the benefits include a positive impact on workers’ experience enabling human interaction whilst following social distancing rules during a pandemic.
Inspired by industry 5.0, ENGINEERING, HSSMI, MTC and STAM will be exploring and testing ways to integrate automation and smart human-machine collaboration. To demonstrate how automated manufacturing systems can be reconfigured quickly, these CO-VERSATILE partners are looking at utilising MTC’s automated robotic manufacturing cell and integrating innovative technologies to set up a rapidly configurable production system. The system will enable immediate reconfigurability through simulation and modelling, user friendly off-line cell re-programming and digitalisation of shared best practices.
The team of CO-VERSATILE partners is working collaboratively to achieve the following objectives:
Research and demonstrate how automated manufacturing system can be reconfigured on short notice at times of crises, enabling rapid and flexible changeover between activities.
Use parts of CPAP[i] device assembly process to develop and transfer an exemplary robotic cell that would inspire other manufacturing firms. Shared best practices will incorporate hardware and software requirements, and the knowledge gained during robotic cell setup, upgrade and modelling – all available digitally.
To ensure the availability of medical devices in high volumes when they are needed most, it is essential to achieve fast repurposing of the robotic cell setup to another compatible cell and with that increase the overall production. ENGINEERING, HSSMI, MTC and STAM are working together to find the right balance and the best combination of automated and manual production steps and to capture and share best practices to achieve replication of the solution by future partners and customers.