Robotics and Automation: The Next Big Industrial Revolution is Here and Now

Evans Arc Welding Robotic Assembly

It’s been 100 years since Henry Ford created the first manufacturing assembly line – he physically pulled a Model T on a rope! Ford’s assembly line helped to answer demand for the automobile, and it was one of the biggest breakthroughs in the industrial revolution, according to a recent article in the Detroit Free Press. The creation of assembly lines has had global ramifications over the past century, ramifications that have extended all the way to today.

robotThe article states, “When Ford pulled that first Model T on a rope, it was one of the biggest breakthroughs in America’s industrial revolution. Breaking down the Model T’s 3,000 parts into 84 distinct steps performed by groups of workers simplified and shortened the building of a car. Assembly time for a Model T went from 12 hours to about 90 minutes.” This assembly line was, literally, the grandfather of today’s manufacturing lines, and, just like that original assembly line, today’s automated manufacturing production lines offer a lot of advantages:

  • Simplification of an assembly/manufacturing process.
  • Higher production rates.
  • Time-savings.
  • Cost-savings, and more.

A recent article on USAToday.com says, “The savings achieved through the first assembly line enabled Ford to reduce the Model T price from $850 to less than $300, making it affordable for the masses. By 1927 Ford was able to build a Model T every 24 seconds and sold more than 15 million worldwide, accounting for half of all automobiles sold at the time.”

Today, automation, in various forms, is revolutionizing manufacturing in every sector. Manufacturing Engineering Media reports, “Although automation can and does take many forms, ranging from barfeeds and parts catchers to pick-and-place systems, and to floor, machine, or gantry-mounted robots, each type has its pros and cons.”

The pros of automation – such as filling the manufacturing skills gap, offering a high-level of accuracy, and taking humans out of dangerous environments and situations –definitely outweigh the cons. The same article states, “Small and midsized shops also have an opportunity to adopt automation as a ready-made and cost-effective solution to critical gaps in the availability of skilled workers for applications like welding, for instance.”

Fast-forward from 1913 to 2013, look at every manufacturing industry and you’ll see the legacy left behind by Henry Ford’s first assembly line. Today, however, you’ll find robotics and technology playing important roles on the assembly line. Automation is one of the keys to success – and to remaining competitive – in manufacturing on a global scale. Yes, we’ve come a long way from Ford’s days of pulling cars on ropes, and who knows where we’ll be 100 years from now!

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