That’s why it was refreshing to see a more realistic view of the impact of automation presented in a recent episode of Dr Who. The Doctor and her companions visited a futuristic version of a warehouse and distribution centre and found that nearly the entire workforce consisted of humanoid robots, with humans making up just ten per cent of the staff.
As you can imagine, the programme was addressing the creeping, and wholly irrational, fear that ‘robots will take our jobs’. It was an analysis of the mass automation anxiety we are seeing in the UK and Europe, embodied perfectly when one of the characters, Dan, said, “whilst we were busy staring at our phones, technology went and nicked our jobs.”
Made smarter - a rational voice
But there was a rational voice. As the programme concluded, the Doctor said, “The systems aren't the problem. How people use and exploit the system, that's the problem...”
We have similar rational voices in industry. For example, last year, the UK Government published Made Smarter, a review of I4.0 in the UK, which brought together executives from companies such as IBM, GKN, Rolls Royce, and Siemens. The report estimated that Intelligent Digital Technologies (IDTs) could create a net 175,000 jobs and boost industrial production by 25 per cent.
At Beckhoff we naturally have an interest in making IDT, as well as technology in the wider automation arena, as accessible and profitable as possible for industry. Our TwinCat automation software suite helps do this by delivering a single platform for multiple automation applications, from robotics and vision through to Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), motion control and Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs).
This delivers multiple benefits, including eliminating the additional CPU that would normally be required for robot control in some applications, reducing engineering costs and improving performance and accuracy by reducing, or eliminating, the need for communication between multiple CPUs.