Robot Limits

Increasing automation is affecting American workers, and expected to continue to do so. The Brookings Institution reckons that 25% of American workers will face employment challenges as a result of the current rise in automation. They’re bullish on automation, but they still say we need to be ready for disruption.

We know that robots ought to take over jobs that are dangerous and dull, but what kinds of jobs will be hard for robots to manage? Certainly, any work that requires human interaction and problem solving should be left to humans. Robots can be programmed to give the appearance of conducting human interctions, but it’s fake, and it can’t be done at the same time as other jobs.

Problem solving and creativity continue to be things humans do better than robots.

But those are the obvious things.

What robots do badly

Robots are not good at varied input. They can’t handle fruit, since apples may be very different in shape, color, and orientation. They’re even worse at packages, since packages can be of any size, color, and shape. Packages also get stacked into trucks and warehouses in different ways. This means that robots can’t unpack trucks very well.

Major machine makers are working on that.

“I can speak from first-hand experience from developing this machine: The job is miserable inside that trailer,” Matt Wicks of Honeywell’s told Industry Week. “Getting people out of the trailer and on the dock side managing several of these machines is a huge factor as it relates to employee satisfaction and retention.”

That gives strong motivation to improve robots’ ability to handle packages, and several innovative options are in production now. Using suction cups and conveyor belts, robots can identify and unload packages without sophisticated sensors.

Robots also have trouble moving over rough terrain. They have trouble moving at all without excessive energy demands. They are getting better at not running into people, but that’s still a challenge for them.

What robots are good at

Robots are hot stuff when it comes to repetitive motions. Doing the same thing over and over doesn’t bother them at all. They’re much better at this particular kind of task than humans are.

Given good motion control systems, they can do the same thing over and over with less waste and greater consistency than people.

But the truth is, they have to rely on servo motors to move with power and precision. They need excellent motion control to get them to move to the right place and stop there. Over and over again.

We specialize in Rexroth electric industrial motion control. When you need support or service for your drives, controls, servos, and more, we can help. Call now and keep your robots doing what they do best.

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