Fully Automated Factories and Warehouses?

, by Jim Ryan, 1 min reading time

Here's a short read and a view from 30,000 ft, mainly from the perspective of supply chain facilities, from Sharon Spielman at MachineDesign Dark Factories: Science Fiction or Reality.

The article notes that sophisticated sensors found in automated welding are a step along the way towards "dark factories". However, the big think in the article is that people will need to cede power, in order for these factories to be realized. People don't like to cede power. Moreover, caution should be exercised. Is the goal of dark factories seductive because it sounds so high tech? Will these factories really be optimally fulfill human wants an needs? "Because it's so high tech and cool!" is not a reason to adopt. And the inference from "An increase in automation in our production lines" to "We ought to strive for 100% automation" is certainly an invalid one. So, what gives.

Last month, Christian Heck and Nash Chakraborty some thoughts on how and why to businesses may move toward dark factories: Lights-out Manufacturing: Myths Versus Realities. As for the "why", if you read between the lines, Heck and Chakraborty seem to be saying that dark factories will tend to ensure a sustainability and productivity because nowadays, and into the foreseeable future, it is no longer easy to find and hire human labor.

There is a one-hour panel this month on full automation: Lights Out Manufacturing, featuring Rehana Begg of Machine Design, Kevin Cradduck of Fabco-Air (Festo), and Jerry Perez of Fanuc America Corp.

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