Rise in Robotics Requires New Tax Approach, EU Report Warns

Linda A. Thompson for Bloomberg:  European lawmakers warn that the growing use of robots and artificial intelligence may cause job losses across the continent, threatening to result in plummeting tax revenues if current tax frameworks aren't revised to account for the rise of the robotic workforce. Practitioners told Bloomberg BNA that taxing robots as “electronic persons,” as the EU contemplates in a recent report, would hinder innovation and that other ways of taxing the value that robotics create should be explored. The recent European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs draft reportrecommends the European Commission adopt a resolution to require companies to report on “the extent and proportion of the contribution of robotics and AI to the economic results of a company for the purpose of taxation and social security contributions.” Its first paragraph references Frankenstein, and comes amid mounting concerns that the rise in automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace will fundamentally alter economies, destroy jobs and jeopardize social welfare programs such as social security.   Cont'd...

China's Midea buys nearly half of German robotics firm Kuka

The Star:  Chinese appliances giant Midea moved a step closer to fulfilling its ambition to acquire German industrial robotics firm Kuka with two weekend deals raising its stake to nearly a majority.  Two of Kuka’s biggest German shareholders – technology company Voith and entrepreneur Friedhelm Loh – said they had decided to take up Midea’s offer of €115 (RM512) per share and sell their stakes.  German news agency DPA reported that Voith had agreed to sell its stake of 25.1% for €1.2bil (RM5.34bil).  And Loh told the business daily Handelsblatt he had decided to sell his stake of 10% for nearly €500mil (RM2.22bil).  Combined with its existing holding of 13.5% in Kuka, the two purchases mean Midea now holds 48.5%, or not far from the outright majority, in the Augsburg-based robot builder.   Cont'd.. .

10 Ways Machine Learning Is Revolutionizing Manufacturing

Louis Columbus for Forbes:  Every manufacturer has the potential to integrate machine learning into their operations and become more competitive by gaining predictive insights into production. Machine learning’s core technologies align well with the complex problems manufacturers face daily. From striving to keep supply chains operating efficiently to producing customized, built- to-order products on time, machine learning algorithms have the potential to bring greater predictive accuracy to every phase of production. Many of the algorithms being developed are iterative, designed to learn continually and seek optimized outcomes. These algorithms iterate in milliseconds, enabling manufacturers to seek optimized outcomes in minutes versus months. The ten ways machine learning is revolutionizing manufacturing include the following:

Industry 4.0 breathes new life into cybersecurity

Dave Sutton for IT Pro Portal:  A technical evolution has taken place, which has made cyberthreats more potent than at any other time in our history. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, over half of British businesses will suffer cyberattacks by 2018. As businesses seek to embrace Industry 4.0, cybersecurity protection must be a top priority for Industrial Control Systems (ICS). These attacks are financially crippling, reduce production and business innovation, and cost lives. In years gone by, legacy ICS were developed with proprietary technology and were isolated from the outside world, so physical perimeter security was deemed adequate and cybersecurity was not relevant. However, today the rise of digital manufacturing means many control systems use open or standardised technologies to both reduce costs and improve performance, employing direct communications between control and business systems. Companies must now be proactive to secure their systems online as well as offline.   Cont'd...

Companies, employees not quite ready for cognitive technology wave of robotics, AI, machine learning

Larry Dignan for Between the Lines:  Robots, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other cognitive technologies will replace about 7 percent of U.S. jobs by 2025 with office and administrative staff taking the biggest hit, according to a Forrester Research forecast. The bad news is jobs will be lost. The good news is that new gigs will be created as cognitive technology takes hold. One reason the disruption won't be larger or happen sooner is that companies aren't ready for the change related to the new automated workforce, said Forrester. Among the key items: 16 percent of U.S. jobs will be replaced, but 9 percent of jobs will be created. That's how Forrester gets to the 7 percent job loss by 2025 figure. Emerging jobs will be robot monitoring pros, data scientists, automation specialists and content curators. 93 percent of automation technologists feel unprepared to take on smart machine technologies. 83 percent saw cognitive computing as critical to their companies' future. 32 percent of respondents said they are prepared for the cognitive technology changes ahead, but only 12 percent are prepared to deal with the human and organizational fallout. 46 percent say the number of jobs will remain about the same and 43 percent of respondents thought jobs would decline. Full Article:

'UK manufacturers fail to understand Industry 4.0'

Ian Vallely for Works Management:  There isn't enough understanding of Industry 4.0 by UK manufacturers, according to a report by BDO in partnership with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  It said just 8% of UK manufacturers have a significant understanding of Industry 4.0 processes despite 59% recognising that the fourth industrial revolution will have a big impact on the sector, according to the report . As the increasing use of automation, data exchange, technology and wider supply chain communications driven by Industry 4.0 provides both huge opportunities and threats to UK manufacturing, there remains a ‘gaping hole’ in the education and understanding of Industry 4.0. According to the BDO Industry 4 0 Report, increased productivity, better data analysis, increased competitiveness and lower manufacturing costs are the top ways in which Industry 4.0 will affect UK manufacturing.   Cont'd...

Midea makes bid for robotics maker Kuka official

DW.com:  Chinese appliance firm Midea has announced it has launched a cash offer for a stake of 30 percent in German industrial robotics supplier Kuka. The takeover bid has stoked controversy in Germany and Europe. Midea said on Thursday it would offer 115 euros ($130) per share to Kuka owners under efforts to become the biggest single shareholder in one of the world's leading manufacturers of industrial robots. The Chinese appliance maker, which is so far only known to be producing washing machines and air conditioners, also said its offer would end July 15, with no ceiling on the percentage of shares it was aiming to buy.  Kuka shares closed at just above 106 euros in trading at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange on Wednesday. The stock gained about 26 percent since the deal was first proposed in May.   Cont'd...

How Big Area Additive Manufacturing is Enabling Automotive Microfactories

Ian Wright for Engineering.com:  Make no mistake, 3D printing is changing manufacturing. Although it may take years before we see the full impact of bringing this technology from rapid prototyping to full-scale production, there are already hints of big things to come. Take Local Motors’ recent purchase of two Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) systems from Cincinnati Incorporated (CI) as an example. The former company designs, builds and sells custom vehicles out of its US-based microfactories. The latter is a century-old manufacturer of metal fabrication tools and, more recently, BAAM.   Cont'd...

Carnegie Mellon Taps Private Gift for Engineering Simulation Center

Dian Schaffhauser for Campus Technology:  Carnegie Mellon University has launched a new collaboration with Ansys, a global company that produces software for engineering simulation. Under the terms of the agreement, the company will endow a new "Ansys Career Development Chair" in the College of Engineering and help fund a new building dedicated to the study of Industry 4.0. That facility will bring together faculty, students, researchers and corporate participants. Industry 4.0 is the name given to a movement that uses sensor, robotic, simulation and other innovative technologies to shrink development cycles and transform product design, development and manufacturing. The new 30,000 square foot facility, which will be known as the Ansys Building, is intended to expand the "making" capabilities of the college by adding a simulation and collaboration lab and a large open bay facility for undergraduate students to build full-scale projects. That open bay facility will be next door to the fabrication and machining facilities of the Hamerschlag Hall MakerWing, announced in December, where students will be able to make their components and then assemble them into larger systems.   Cont'd...

How Small Manufacturers Can Leverage Smart Manufacturing

Andrew Waycott for Industry Week:  I see three ways in which smaller manufacturers can leverage Smart Manufacturing.  The first is the way applicable to all manufacturers—using today’s affordable sensors to get better data, then using that data to fine-tune the process, decrease variability and remove bottlenecks. All of these bring costs down and drive quality up. Now let’s talk about the other two ways—ways that are specific to the smaller manufacturer. Smaller manufacturers have the edge in building volumes of one—in other words, customized orders. For many smaller manufacturers, the look is less assembly line and more set of work stations. This means that the operator in a smaller plant typically makes more decisions. It’s a more people-oriented process.   Cont'd...

Bosch Rexroth launches Industry 4.0 training rigs

The Engineer:  Bosch Rexroth has launched a new range of training rigs designed to help students get up to speed with the internet of things (IoT) and Industry 4.0. The rigs will form part of the company’s Drive & Control Academy programme and are built with industry-grade components. Aimed specifically at educational and industrial institutions, the rigs are tailored towards students and teachers as well as customers and employees, designed to assist with the adoption of Industry 4.0 practices. According to Bosch Rexroth, the modular hydraulic, pneumatic and mechatronic systems simulate a complete production process, combining several elements that can be operated individually or together. The physical rigs are accompanied by corresponding exercises, eLearning, project manuals and other supporting material. “The launch of our new training rigs offering is market leading and aims to provide the younger generation with a better understanding in the future of manufacturing,” said Richard Chamberlain, product manager service at Bosch Rexroth. “We firmly believe our industry grade training rigs will equip students with the ability to stay ahead of the curve. Our course material helps guide trainees through consecutive steps that build on one another, which means motivation remains high.”   Cont'd...

Foxconn Replaces 60,000 Labourers With Robots in China

Subhrojit Mallick  for GIZMODO India:   Apple and Samsung phone manufacturer, Foxconn has already taken a step towards the dystopian future. The South China Morning Post reported the manufacturing giant has replaced 60,000 laborers with robots. The total strength of Foxconn factory workers reduced from 110,000 to 50,000, marking a huge shift towards automation of routine jobs.  The Foxconn technology group confirmed to the BBC that they are automating many of the manufacturing tasks associated with their operations by introducing robots. However, they maintained the move will not affect long-term job losses.    Cont'd...

The Biggest Challenges of Data-Driven Manufacturing

Willy C. Shih and Helmuth Ludwig for Harvard Business Review:  The widespread deployment of low-cost sensors and their connection to the internet has generated a great deal of excitement (and hype) about the future of manufacturing. The internet of things (IoT) and industrial internet in the United States, Industrie 4.0 in Germany, and 物"网 (wù lián wăng) in China are all centered on the application of big data and analytics to creating the next generation of manufacturing: using data to reduce costs through next generation sales and operations planning, dramatically improved productivity, supply chain and distribution optimization, and new types of after-sales services. In fact, IoT is at the peak of Gartner’s 2015 hype cycle, which suggests the next phase will be disillusionment, and it will be years before we see real productivity gains. We believe data-driven manufacturing is indeed the next wave that will drive efficient and responsive production systems. But to get beyond the hype, managers need to understand some underlying challenges and paradigm shifts. While there are a multitude of challenges on the road to successful implementation, we think there are four especially important ones.   Cont'd...

China's Big Bid For Germany's Industry 4.0 Technology

Klaus E. Meyer for Forbes:  Midea, the Chinese household appliances (“white goods”) manufacturer just made what analysts called an ‘incredibly high’ bid for German robot maker Kuka. This acquisition would take the Chinese investor right to the heart of Industry 4.0 : Kuka is a leading manufacturer of multifunctional robots that represent an important building block for enterprises upgrading their factories with full automation, the latest human-machine interface functionality, and machine-to-machine communication. Midea want a 30% stake in Kuka and have offered €115 per share. Kuka’s shares traded at €84 the day before and had already increased 60% since the beginning of the year. This offer values Kuka at €4.6 billion, which means Midea’s 30% stake would be worth €1.4 billion – on par with Beijing Enterprise’s February 2016 takeover of recycling company EEW which was the largest Chinese acquisition of a German firm to-date. Midea’s takeover bid underscores Chinese interest in German Industry 4.0 technology; in January 2016, ChemChina paid €925 million for Munich-based KraussMaffei machine tools, in part because of their advances into Industry 4.0. Recent smaller Chinese acquisitions in the German machine tool industry, which include the partial acquisitions of H.Stoll by the ShangGong Group and of Manz by the Shanghai Electric Group are, in part, motivated by the objective to partake in the latest Industry 4.0 developments.   Cont'd...

German manufacturers take aim at smart factories, mass customization

TOMOHISA TAKEI, Nikkei staff writer:  It has been five years since Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution, was first unveiled at the Hannover Messe industrial technology trade fair in Germany.      Industry 4.0 was more of a conceptual model at that time. This year, however, the trade show witnessed an emerging trend toward "smart factories" that can provide mass customization.      On April 25, SEW-Eurodrive's booth at Hannover Messe drew crowds of visitors. The German industrial motor maker demonstrated its automated vehicles for next-generation assembly plants, what it calls the "Lean Smart Factory."      In SEW-Eurodrive's demonstration, about 10 such "smart vehicles" moved about as five workers assembled products. One vehicle approached its target worker, displayed a procedure on its screen and instructed the worker to do the assembly work. After the worker completed the task, the vehicle received the product and moved on to another worker in charge of the next process.      These smart vehicles were connected over a network and programmed at the company factory. But it looked as if the products themselves were driving the vehicles and moved to where the tasks needed to be done. SEW-Eurodrive has already introduced the system at its factory in the southwestern German town of Graben-Neudorf, intending to make individually tailored products in the future.   Cont'd...

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