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Manufacturing is where it all started for robotics. These days are good days to
revisit the topic, discuss the interesting things that are about to happen both
for robotics and manufacturing.

1	
  
Before talking about the robots, let’s look at the evolution of manufacturing. What were the different manufacturing
approaches that have been used over time? The start was craft manufacturing, a skilled worker would make a one of
a kind product with great pride and attention to quality. Back then, we developed all kinds of tools, so the craftsman
could do a better job, faster.
But there was a limit to this approach. If everybody was going to have a car, we needed mass production. To
democratize such complex products, Henry Ford applied his idea of splitting all the operations into bits of work that
anyone could accomplish and invented the assembly line. This approach was perfect for the early robots, which just
had to accomplish one of those repetitive tasks.
Then came the lean approach which optimized the assembly line, making sure every step would be increasing value
for the customer while minimizing waste and producing high quality.
If you look at these historical steps, you realize that the region that first mastered the latest manufacturing paradigm
had a significant competitive edge. Craft production was dominated by the Europeans, mass production was the story
of the Americans and lean production was created and first leveraged by the Japanese. What will be the next step in
this evolution? Many signs are pointing in the direction of Agile Production or Manufacturing. In this presentation, we’ll
discuss what Agile manufacturing is about, how robots are a part of it today and what this might look like 10 years
from now.

2	
  
At Robotiq, we are so interested in agility that we’ve included it in our mission,
which is to make Tools for Agile Automation. We make robotic tooling such as
flexible grippers or hands. We are also about to start selling a device to teach
industrial robots by demonstration.
Plus, we are also a manufacturer, so, we are always looking at how we can
make our products in a better way.

3	
  
Our customer base is diverse. We sell our components to the most advanced
R&D labs in the world and to the job shop in the next small town. So we have
insight into an interesting portrait of what’s happening in robotics.
In the past, we’ve seen technology slowly trickling down from the R&D labs to
industry, but a lot of it would stop migrating in the large corporations. They
were the main target market anyway. Many robotic technologies never
reached the vast market of small or medium businesses. At the same time,
this market's need for automation grew, as it was facing a skilled worker
shortage.
What’s interesting these days, is that we’re starting to see the adoption of
new robotics technology from the bottom up: small companies starting to use
technologies on the production floor before the large corporations do.
Everywhere, flexibility is a word that you hear again and again.

4	
  
So… What is Agility? Is it a synonym for flexibility?
Agility is ability to adapt to rapid, unexpected changes. So it is not exactly the
same as flexibility, it goes one step further. In manufacturing, being flexible
means being able to make many different products. To be agile, you don’t only
need to be able to make different products, but also to adapt your products
and introduce new ones all the time under short notice.
We as humans are agile. I cannot think of any other large animal that can
adapt to change as fast as we can. Our agility, our ability to adapt to rapid,
unexpected change has been our biggest competitive advantage in the history
of evolution. It is the same for corporations. In a world in which the rate of
change is ever increasing, the agile corporations will be the ones to survive
and thrive.

5	
  
Because change is everywhere and it’s going ever faster. With the global,
frictionless flow of information, customer demand is changing direction in the
blink of an eye. The technologies that can be used to make new products is
evolving at great speeds as well. We can also think of other external factors
that are not controlled by the companies themselves, such as natural
disasters. Remember how the supply chain was disrupted in the automotive
and robotics industries after the tsunami in Japan a few years ago. And as if
that was not enough, regulations and politics can bring sudden change to
complete industries.

6	
  
There are hard numbers illustrating the increasing rate of change. For
example, it took 35 years for a quarter of the US population to use the
telephone. It took only 7 years for the Web to reach the same percentage of
the population. The companies in the late 1880s had much more time to adapt
to the changes that the telephone brought. More recently, the Web changed
significantly how we do business and especially how customers buy. Many
companies could not adapt fast enough to the new landscape and they’ve lost
their market position or even perished.

7	
  
At the same time, a changing world is a world of opportunities. What happens
when you become agile? When you can adapt on the fly, catch opportunities
quickly? What happens is that you can turn whole industries upside down.
This graphic is an illustration of the long tail, a concept coined by Chris
Anderson. In his book on the topic, he uses the example of the publishing
industry.
Not so long ago, the common wisdom in the publishing industry was that the
dominant titles are the few titles that bring the majority of the revenues to
bookstores. Bookstores are not agile enough to have in stock the unique
books that only a few aficionados want. But if you sum up all the books they
could sell in only a few copies, the total number is higher than the number of
bestsellers sold.
Online stores with a good interface with their customers and an agile supply
chain can tap into this long tail market. That is one reason why they became
so successful… to the point that they could eventually afford buying robotics
companies at ridiculously high prices. They were so successful for one very
simple reason: they could provide exactly what many customers wanted at a
competitive price.

8	
  
Agile manufacturing has the potential to turn the manufacturing industry
upside down.
If we can manage to be agile enough to sell a higher diversity of products,
while maintaining high quality and low cost, we’ll be able to sell to this long
tail and create new opportunities.
Obviously, manufacturing has other challenges than just distribution like the
book industry. It involves more tools, methods and operations that have a
higher inertia. This is where robots for agile manufacturing come into play.

9	
  
Another example of agility is: Agile software development.
Software developers realized the fact that the world was changing faster than
they could adapt their development methods.
During the course of a project, it might become too costly or unwieldy to
change, so the final product was not satisfying for the customer, sometime it
was even obsolete at release.
Here are a few important principles taken from the Agile Manifesto that was an
important milestone in the development of this methodology.
The target is customer satisfaction. To achieve this, self-organizing teams
quickly iterate useful software versions using continuous feedback from the
different stakeholders.

10	
  
Again, an analogy can be drawn between software development and
manufacturing.
We as manufacturers are also facing an environment that is changing at a
faster speed than we can adapt. Although hardware evolution might be a little
bit slower than software evolution, the costs of changing hardware are higher.
So the reasons to be agile as just as important.
Of course, the challenge as manufacturers and robot makers is that we don’t
only deal with software and information, but also and mostly with hardware.

11	
  
To	
  formalize	
  a	
  defini9on,	
  	
  Agile	
  Manufacturing	
  is:	
  
	
  
the	
  processes,	
  tools	
  and	
  training;	
  
to	
  enable	
  a	
  manufacturer	
  to	
  respond	
  quickly	
  to	
  customer	
  needs	
  and	
  market	
  changes;	
  
while	
  s9ll	
  controlling	
  costs	
  and	
  quality.	
  
	
  
It	
  requires	
  being	
  able	
  to	
  reconfigure	
  opera9ons,	
  processes,	
  and	
  business	
  
rela9onships	
  efficiently	
  under	
  fast	
  moving,	
  unpredictable	
  condi9ons.	
  
	
  
It	
  also	
  requires	
  a	
  good	
  interface	
  between	
  the	
  customer	
  and	
  the	
  processes,	
  so	
  the	
  
change	
  in	
  demand	
  can	
  be	
  captured	
  con9nuously.	
  
	
  
Robots	
  are	
  in	
  the	
  center.	
  They	
  are	
  tools,	
  used	
  in	
  processes	
  by	
  people	
  that	
  need	
  to	
  be	
  
trained.	
  
	
  

12	
  
Let’s get back for a minute to the introduction where I presented Agile as an evolution of the previous manufacturing
approaches. In Craft manufacturing, the customer was in direct contact with the craftsman and could request the
product that he needed. The craftsman would make his products one after the other.
In Mass manufacturing, the idea was to provide a sophisticated product at an affordable price by standardizing the
product. Customers didn’t mind not having the product exactly how they wanted it. In the beginning, just being able to
afford buying the product was great. You probably heard Henry Ford’s saying that “You can have your Ford T any
color, as long as it’s black.” This was because the black pigments were the ones that would dry the fastest. This in an
example that in mass manufacturing, the production method was dictating what the customer could have.
In Lean manufacturing, the assembly line was rethought. We started to look back at what the customer wanted,
making sure that every step would be toward something valuable for him. The workers have been given more
responsibility for improving the production process in a quest for higher quality. In a world of Lean manufacturing, you
do have options when you buy something. When you buy a car, you have access to groups of options. If you want to
have a connector to play the music that is in your phone, you also need to pay for the other options in this group: tire
pressure valves, the chrome on the wheels and the autonomous parking function. This is despite the fact that even if
good music is playing, I believe you should still be able to park your car yourself. OK, maybe this is more marketing
than manufacturing, but you get my point, I’m sure.
Agile is bringing back customer satisfaction, to where it should have always been, which is - the very top priority for
businesses. Agile shows the promise of complete customer satisfaction based on a product that would fit the
customers exact needs. That does not mean that Agile does custom all the time. That means that you can configure
your product so it fits your needs. Again we can learn lessons from the software industry who transitioned from
Software Customization (complex, expensive, time consuming) to Software Configuration (fast, simple) – as all the
modern SaaS (software as a service) solutions use it.

13	
  
This is the most important point: Agile manufacturing targets high customer
satisfaction, by being highly sensitive to customer demand.
This sounds great. You can’t be against that. But what are the implications for
the processes, tools and training needed to accomplish this goal?
Being able to adjust production on the fly will require the production people to
master their processes. There won’t be time to go back to central engineering
for new recipes and new directions. This goes back to our small, selforganized teams used in agile software development. And this is not good
news in a world where there is a shortage of skilled workers.
Producing a small run has to be as cost effective as producing a large one.
Manufacturing as a whole: the tools, the people, the logistics, everything will
have to be highly flexible. And speed is of the essence. Delay is an important
factor for customer satisfaction.
To summarize, in Agile, the customer is king. He does not adapt to our
production method limitations. It is the other way around: We push the limits of
our manufacturing methods. This represents great challenges for the robotics
industry.

14	
  
How can robots be part of the transition to Agile Manufacturing?
The first approach is to see robots simply as the new generation of everyday
tools. What is a tool? It is a piece of equipment that is in your toolbox, that you
know how to use, and that can augment your ability. A hammer helps you hit a
nail harder. A wrench multiplies the force you apply as a stronger torque. How
can robots be as accessible to the production floor people to augment their
capacity? We’ll show some examples.
The second approach is fully autonomous robots. This is obviously far more
challenging to achieve technically. This is the co-worker paradigm.
I’ll focus most of the remaining presentation on the first category: Robots as
an everyday tool.

15	
  
How to transform robots as just another tool? How can robots simply be an
extension of the worker?
First, the robots must be understood, accessible to the worker. One way to
achieve this is by changing the programming to a teaching approach. Instead
of coding, using the robot language, have the worker use his own language to
teach the robot a task.
Second, the hardware must be flexible enough. It will be impossible to use
hardware dedicated to each and every product we make if we are to become
agile.
For a production floor to be agile, it will be important to rearrange the flow of
operations, so robots will have to be able to move around, work stations will
have to be easily reconfigurable. Robots will have to be part of the workspace.
The last point, robots will have to be upgradable. Our tools, including our
robots, must be able to evolve as fast as the world is changing.

16	
  
Programming an industrial robot today is way easier than it was 10 years ago, but it is still very
difficult, even inaccessible for many people.
Let’s say you are a welder. If you are the average age of a welder in the US, you’ll be over 50
years old. You’ve been welding all your life with your own hands. Then one day your boss tells
you that you’ll need to learn how to program a robot. What does this mean for you?
You’ll have to learn a few things:
•  A new language, that will depend on the robot brand
•  The logic of programming,
•  A new interface with plenty of buttons, the teach pendant,
•  New concepts such as reference frames, tool center points, joint limits, singularities, arc files,
etc.
There is so much to learn that you’ll probably have to attend a 2 week course at the robot
manufacturer's facility. That is a lot of training to start using a new tool.
So much, that many workers will never make it. This is one very serious barrier to the adoption
of robots. Teaching means having the robots understand the worker’s language, not the
opposite. This is important for agility. We want to easily train many workers on how to use the
robots. We can’t be agile if only a single person in the plant knows how to program the robot.
We want to be able to easily deploy the robots, reassign them to do new tasks quickly. We
want to leverage the workers know-how on the specific process, use his brain power
combined with the robot muscle power.

17	
  
One way to simplify the teaching of a robot is by having the ability to drag the
robot arm around. Then you can avoid learning many of the robot kinematics
concepts. As most of you know, this feature is available on commercial robots
such as the Universal Robots, Baxter and the Kuka Light Weight, just to name
a few.
Moving the robot is the first thing, then you need to add some instructions. And
since my iPhone proves to me everyday that it can’t understand my accent
when I talk to Sirri, we’ll stick to visual interfaces. We need to add a layer on
top of the pure, line by line programming to enable the worker to input high
level commands. This is well done on Baxter and UR and I’ll show you and
example on how it can be done on a traditional industrial robot.

18	
  
To help our welder, who is having a hard time learning how to program a robot,
we’ve developed a product called Kinetiq Teaching. This can be used so the
welder can actually teach the robot with no in depth knowledge of
programming.
A sensor is added to a Motoman robot to enable the welder to move the robot
around without using the teach pendant.
On the teach pendant, an intuitive interface enables the welder to instruct the
robot on what to do without writing a line of code. Every button he can press
on the teach pendant touch screen corresponds to something he understands:
record a point, start welding, adjust welding parameters, etc.

19	
  
Robo9cs	
  today,	
  and	
  manufacturing	
  in	
  general,	
  use	
  a	
  lot	
  of	
  dedicated	
  tooling.	
  If	
  
you’re	
  dealing	
  with	
  a	
  high	
  mix	
  of	
  products,	
  this	
  approach	
  makes	
  it	
  impossible	
  to	
  
jus9fy	
  the	
  ROI	
  for	
  robo9cs.	
  
	
  
A	
  robot	
  is	
  flexible,	
  it	
  can	
  move	
  anywhere	
  in	
  space.	
  If	
  you	
  have	
  enough	
  payload,	
  reach,	
  
and	
  repeatability,	
  you’d	
  be	
  able	
  to	
  use	
  it	
  in	
  all	
  you	
  produc9ons.	
  But	
  if	
  you	
  need	
  to	
  
come	
  up	
  with	
  a	
  dedicated	
  tool	
  for	
  every	
  product	
  made,	
  costs	
  will	
  add	
  up	
  preUy	
  
quickly.	
  Costs	
  for	
  buying,	
  designing,	
  storing	
  and	
  changing	
  the	
  tools.	
  
	
  
In	
  order	
  for	
  robots	
  to	
  be	
  economical	
  in	
  the	
  agile	
  factory,	
  the	
  hardware	
  also	
  needs	
  to	
  
be	
  highly	
  adaptable	
  so	
  that	
  you	
  have	
  one	
  plaWorm,	
  one	
  tool	
  unit	
  that	
  is	
  generic	
  
enough	
  to	
  be	
  used	
  for	
  a	
  variety	
  of	
  different	
  tasks.	
  Nobody	
  wants	
  to	
  constantly	
  
change	
  the	
  hardware	
  or	
  to	
  do	
  the	
  accompanying	
  necessary	
  engineering	
  work.	
  
Flexible	
  components	
  are	
  key.	
  
	
  
Remember	
  that	
  in	
  Agile,	
  a	
  small	
  batch	
  must	
  be	
  as	
  economical	
  as	
  a	
  large	
  one.	
  The	
  goal	
  
of	
  flexible	
  hardware	
  is	
  to	
  provide	
  flexibility	
  at	
  a	
  fixed	
  cost.	
  	
  
	
  
	
  

20	
  
Again, robots are flexible. These days, more work has to be done on the
tooling, like grippers for pick and place. Here are some different approaches
for flexible gripping that are on, or about to enter the market. Some of these
are from the folks I’ve shared the stage with 2 days ago during the workshop
on manipulation.
These are different approaches, different ways to pick different types of
objects, but the goal is the same: being able to pick all the parts with a single
tool to reduce dedicated tooling cost and eliminate changeover down time.

21	
  
So what can be better than having a flexible arm with a flexible gripper?
Having two sets working together. Think of what you can hold with one hand
versus what you can hold with two. The range of objects that you can hold with
two arms is very large because you have more force, but also more contact
points.
Here is a short clip of such an application, which involves assembling doors.
As you can see, using flexible grippers on a dual arm robot really expands the
range of parts that you can handle with the robot. Some integrators are even
exploring the use of grippers not only to grab parts, but also to grab and use
tools.

22	
  
Another aspect to having robots as an everyday tool is having them
seamlessly integrated into the workspace.
Being able to move around in a factory is another important factor for agility.
Just as we can assign an operator to work on a machine for a specific job,
then have him move to another machine or job depending on the workload, we
want to be able to assign the robots to different stations.
How the workflow is arranged has a big impact on productivity and flexibility.
For shops with small runs, there might not be enough work all the time at a
specific station for a robot. But if you can reassign the robot to another station,
you’ll be maximizing its use and get a better return on this investment.
And not having unused robots bolted to the floor will help you maximize
valuable floor space too.

23	
  
One way to achieve this is to have robots that are safe to work alongside
humans without fences. Different robots that claim to be safe are shown on the
screen. They all use slightly different approaches, but the general idea is to
have a robot that can’t exert more than a given force or apply more than a
given torque at its joints.
A new RIA, ISO safety standard also looks at how the traditional industrial
robots can share the same workspace as a human using safety enabling
devices, such as a mat or a light curtain, and having the robot revert to teach
mode when a human is in the workspace.

24	
  
Another way of making a robot part of the workspace is by having
transportable robots. Robots that can be easily moved from one place to
another in the factory. Again, Universal Robots and Baxter are two examples.
For some tasks, these new collaborative robots won’t have enough payload,
reach or repeatability; so an industrial robot will have to be used. Here is a
video from a Swedish spinoff showing a mobile manipulator using a docking
system to go from one machine to next, basically going where the work is.

25	
  
The last aspect that our robots must have to be used as an everyday tool is
that they must be able to upgrade and evolve.
This map is from Frank Tobe’s robot report showing the companies working
on robotics around the world. There are also a lot of laboratories doing more
fundamental work.
There are a lot of developments in robotics these days, many great minds are
working on it. It takes a lot of time and effort to bring these technologies to
market, but they are coming. We want to be able to use them today, not wait 3
years for the next robot controller release.
• 
• 
• 

Use the latest and greatest flexible tooling.
Use the new, more capable, more affordable sensors.
Use the latest advancement in software for robot vision, force control, application
packages, etc.

26	
  
I’m making the point for Agile manufacturing here today, but as an industry,
we are not agile at all. At Robotiq, as a tooling manufacturer, we waste a lot of
time not adding value for the customer. We need to support 10 communication
protocols, have 100s of mechanical coupling to attach our tools to the various
robots that are available. It is a lot of work to port our software from one
proprietary robot controller to another.
Mobile app developers can cover 80% of the market if they develop for 2
operating systems: Android and iOS. To reach that same 80% in industrial
robotics, we would need to support maybe 6 different controllers and some of
them do not even have a third party development platform.
All phones will use a USB plug connection and a wifi connection. In robotics,
you have Ethernet IP, TCP IP, Can, Profinet, Profibus, EtherCAT, you name it.
Some even have their own protocol…
Robots are difficult to make, let’s simplify our lives. We should work on
standards to speed up the overall development pace. If there are big robot end
users in the room, you should be pushing the robotics industry to do this, you
would greatly benefit from it.

27	
  
I’ve just talked about robots as a worker’s tool. Before my final words, I’d like to show you some examples of
autonomous robots today. To reach complete autonomy, you need to bring a lot of things together. First, you need to
be able to sense your environment with vision systems, laser scanners, force, tactile sensors, microphones, etc.
Then you have to make decisions using this information, and finally take action, move the arms, move the robots,
etc. How close are we to fully autonomous robots?
Here is a video that illustrates what is the state-of-the-art today in autonomous robots for manufacturing and
unstructured environments. The first robot is called Annie from the Fraunhofer IFF, an applied research group in
Germany. Following Fraunhofer’s video are two short clips of the Tartan Rescue Team from Carnegie Mellon
University, who is participating in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. These are two of the finest robotics groups in the
world.
When you understand the tremendous amount of work and know how that it takes for these two robots to do these
tasks autonomously, you have to be impressed. We are very proud that these groups chose our Grippers to equip
their robots. The reason why I’m showing you this is to give you a sense of where we are in autonomous robot
manipulators: Many challenges have been tackled, many things need to be accomplished before fully autonomous
robots enter the factory. Does it need to be faster? Yes. Will it have to be more robust to meet the variations found in
most environments? Yes. But we’ll get there. I fully trust the robotics community.

28	
  
29	
  
30	
  

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Robots for Agile Manufacturing - Robobusiness 2013 - Samuel Bouchard

  • 1. Manufacturing is where it all started for robotics. These days are good days to revisit the topic, discuss the interesting things that are about to happen both for robotics and manufacturing. 1  
  • 2. Before talking about the robots, let’s look at the evolution of manufacturing. What were the different manufacturing approaches that have been used over time? The start was craft manufacturing, a skilled worker would make a one of a kind product with great pride and attention to quality. Back then, we developed all kinds of tools, so the craftsman could do a better job, faster. But there was a limit to this approach. If everybody was going to have a car, we needed mass production. To democratize such complex products, Henry Ford applied his idea of splitting all the operations into bits of work that anyone could accomplish and invented the assembly line. This approach was perfect for the early robots, which just had to accomplish one of those repetitive tasks. Then came the lean approach which optimized the assembly line, making sure every step would be increasing value for the customer while minimizing waste and producing high quality. If you look at these historical steps, you realize that the region that first mastered the latest manufacturing paradigm had a significant competitive edge. Craft production was dominated by the Europeans, mass production was the story of the Americans and lean production was created and first leveraged by the Japanese. What will be the next step in this evolution? Many signs are pointing in the direction of Agile Production or Manufacturing. In this presentation, we’ll discuss what Agile manufacturing is about, how robots are a part of it today and what this might look like 10 years from now. 2  
  • 3. At Robotiq, we are so interested in agility that we’ve included it in our mission, which is to make Tools for Agile Automation. We make robotic tooling such as flexible grippers or hands. We are also about to start selling a device to teach industrial robots by demonstration. Plus, we are also a manufacturer, so, we are always looking at how we can make our products in a better way. 3  
  • 4. Our customer base is diverse. We sell our components to the most advanced R&D labs in the world and to the job shop in the next small town. So we have insight into an interesting portrait of what’s happening in robotics. In the past, we’ve seen technology slowly trickling down from the R&D labs to industry, but a lot of it would stop migrating in the large corporations. They were the main target market anyway. Many robotic technologies never reached the vast market of small or medium businesses. At the same time, this market's need for automation grew, as it was facing a skilled worker shortage. What’s interesting these days, is that we’re starting to see the adoption of new robotics technology from the bottom up: small companies starting to use technologies on the production floor before the large corporations do. Everywhere, flexibility is a word that you hear again and again. 4  
  • 5. So… What is Agility? Is it a synonym for flexibility? Agility is ability to adapt to rapid, unexpected changes. So it is not exactly the same as flexibility, it goes one step further. In manufacturing, being flexible means being able to make many different products. To be agile, you don’t only need to be able to make different products, but also to adapt your products and introduce new ones all the time under short notice. We as humans are agile. I cannot think of any other large animal that can adapt to change as fast as we can. Our agility, our ability to adapt to rapid, unexpected change has been our biggest competitive advantage in the history of evolution. It is the same for corporations. In a world in which the rate of change is ever increasing, the agile corporations will be the ones to survive and thrive. 5  
  • 6. Because change is everywhere and it’s going ever faster. With the global, frictionless flow of information, customer demand is changing direction in the blink of an eye. The technologies that can be used to make new products is evolving at great speeds as well. We can also think of other external factors that are not controlled by the companies themselves, such as natural disasters. Remember how the supply chain was disrupted in the automotive and robotics industries after the tsunami in Japan a few years ago. And as if that was not enough, regulations and politics can bring sudden change to complete industries. 6  
  • 7. There are hard numbers illustrating the increasing rate of change. For example, it took 35 years for a quarter of the US population to use the telephone. It took only 7 years for the Web to reach the same percentage of the population. The companies in the late 1880s had much more time to adapt to the changes that the telephone brought. More recently, the Web changed significantly how we do business and especially how customers buy. Many companies could not adapt fast enough to the new landscape and they’ve lost their market position or even perished. 7  
  • 8. At the same time, a changing world is a world of opportunities. What happens when you become agile? When you can adapt on the fly, catch opportunities quickly? What happens is that you can turn whole industries upside down. This graphic is an illustration of the long tail, a concept coined by Chris Anderson. In his book on the topic, he uses the example of the publishing industry. Not so long ago, the common wisdom in the publishing industry was that the dominant titles are the few titles that bring the majority of the revenues to bookstores. Bookstores are not agile enough to have in stock the unique books that only a few aficionados want. But if you sum up all the books they could sell in only a few copies, the total number is higher than the number of bestsellers sold. Online stores with a good interface with their customers and an agile supply chain can tap into this long tail market. That is one reason why they became so successful… to the point that they could eventually afford buying robotics companies at ridiculously high prices. They were so successful for one very simple reason: they could provide exactly what many customers wanted at a competitive price. 8  
  • 9. Agile manufacturing has the potential to turn the manufacturing industry upside down. If we can manage to be agile enough to sell a higher diversity of products, while maintaining high quality and low cost, we’ll be able to sell to this long tail and create new opportunities. Obviously, manufacturing has other challenges than just distribution like the book industry. It involves more tools, methods and operations that have a higher inertia. This is where robots for agile manufacturing come into play. 9  
  • 10. Another example of agility is: Agile software development. Software developers realized the fact that the world was changing faster than they could adapt their development methods. During the course of a project, it might become too costly or unwieldy to change, so the final product was not satisfying for the customer, sometime it was even obsolete at release. Here are a few important principles taken from the Agile Manifesto that was an important milestone in the development of this methodology. The target is customer satisfaction. To achieve this, self-organizing teams quickly iterate useful software versions using continuous feedback from the different stakeholders. 10  
  • 11. Again, an analogy can be drawn between software development and manufacturing. We as manufacturers are also facing an environment that is changing at a faster speed than we can adapt. Although hardware evolution might be a little bit slower than software evolution, the costs of changing hardware are higher. So the reasons to be agile as just as important. Of course, the challenge as manufacturers and robot makers is that we don’t only deal with software and information, but also and mostly with hardware. 11  
  • 12. To  formalize  a  defini9on,    Agile  Manufacturing  is:     the  processes,  tools  and  training;   to  enable  a  manufacturer  to  respond  quickly  to  customer  needs  and  market  changes;   while  s9ll  controlling  costs  and  quality.     It  requires  being  able  to  reconfigure  opera9ons,  processes,  and  business   rela9onships  efficiently  under  fast  moving,  unpredictable  condi9ons.     It  also  requires  a  good  interface  between  the  customer  and  the  processes,  so  the   change  in  demand  can  be  captured  con9nuously.     Robots  are  in  the  center.  They  are  tools,  used  in  processes  by  people  that  need  to  be   trained.     12  
  • 13. Let’s get back for a minute to the introduction where I presented Agile as an evolution of the previous manufacturing approaches. In Craft manufacturing, the customer was in direct contact with the craftsman and could request the product that he needed. The craftsman would make his products one after the other. In Mass manufacturing, the idea was to provide a sophisticated product at an affordable price by standardizing the product. Customers didn’t mind not having the product exactly how they wanted it. In the beginning, just being able to afford buying the product was great. You probably heard Henry Ford’s saying that “You can have your Ford T any color, as long as it’s black.” This was because the black pigments were the ones that would dry the fastest. This in an example that in mass manufacturing, the production method was dictating what the customer could have. In Lean manufacturing, the assembly line was rethought. We started to look back at what the customer wanted, making sure that every step would be toward something valuable for him. The workers have been given more responsibility for improving the production process in a quest for higher quality. In a world of Lean manufacturing, you do have options when you buy something. When you buy a car, you have access to groups of options. If you want to have a connector to play the music that is in your phone, you also need to pay for the other options in this group: tire pressure valves, the chrome on the wheels and the autonomous parking function. This is despite the fact that even if good music is playing, I believe you should still be able to park your car yourself. OK, maybe this is more marketing than manufacturing, but you get my point, I’m sure. Agile is bringing back customer satisfaction, to where it should have always been, which is - the very top priority for businesses. Agile shows the promise of complete customer satisfaction based on a product that would fit the customers exact needs. That does not mean that Agile does custom all the time. That means that you can configure your product so it fits your needs. Again we can learn lessons from the software industry who transitioned from Software Customization (complex, expensive, time consuming) to Software Configuration (fast, simple) – as all the modern SaaS (software as a service) solutions use it. 13  
  • 14. This is the most important point: Agile manufacturing targets high customer satisfaction, by being highly sensitive to customer demand. This sounds great. You can’t be against that. But what are the implications for the processes, tools and training needed to accomplish this goal? Being able to adjust production on the fly will require the production people to master their processes. There won’t be time to go back to central engineering for new recipes and new directions. This goes back to our small, selforganized teams used in agile software development. And this is not good news in a world where there is a shortage of skilled workers. Producing a small run has to be as cost effective as producing a large one. Manufacturing as a whole: the tools, the people, the logistics, everything will have to be highly flexible. And speed is of the essence. Delay is an important factor for customer satisfaction. To summarize, in Agile, the customer is king. He does not adapt to our production method limitations. It is the other way around: We push the limits of our manufacturing methods. This represents great challenges for the robotics industry. 14  
  • 15. How can robots be part of the transition to Agile Manufacturing? The first approach is to see robots simply as the new generation of everyday tools. What is a tool? It is a piece of equipment that is in your toolbox, that you know how to use, and that can augment your ability. A hammer helps you hit a nail harder. A wrench multiplies the force you apply as a stronger torque. How can robots be as accessible to the production floor people to augment their capacity? We’ll show some examples. The second approach is fully autonomous robots. This is obviously far more challenging to achieve technically. This is the co-worker paradigm. I’ll focus most of the remaining presentation on the first category: Robots as an everyday tool. 15  
  • 16. How to transform robots as just another tool? How can robots simply be an extension of the worker? First, the robots must be understood, accessible to the worker. One way to achieve this is by changing the programming to a teaching approach. Instead of coding, using the robot language, have the worker use his own language to teach the robot a task. Second, the hardware must be flexible enough. It will be impossible to use hardware dedicated to each and every product we make if we are to become agile. For a production floor to be agile, it will be important to rearrange the flow of operations, so robots will have to be able to move around, work stations will have to be easily reconfigurable. Robots will have to be part of the workspace. The last point, robots will have to be upgradable. Our tools, including our robots, must be able to evolve as fast as the world is changing. 16  
  • 17. Programming an industrial robot today is way easier than it was 10 years ago, but it is still very difficult, even inaccessible for many people. Let’s say you are a welder. If you are the average age of a welder in the US, you’ll be over 50 years old. You’ve been welding all your life with your own hands. Then one day your boss tells you that you’ll need to learn how to program a robot. What does this mean for you? You’ll have to learn a few things: •  A new language, that will depend on the robot brand •  The logic of programming, •  A new interface with plenty of buttons, the teach pendant, •  New concepts such as reference frames, tool center points, joint limits, singularities, arc files, etc. There is so much to learn that you’ll probably have to attend a 2 week course at the robot manufacturer's facility. That is a lot of training to start using a new tool. So much, that many workers will never make it. This is one very serious barrier to the adoption of robots. Teaching means having the robots understand the worker’s language, not the opposite. This is important for agility. We want to easily train many workers on how to use the robots. We can’t be agile if only a single person in the plant knows how to program the robot. We want to be able to easily deploy the robots, reassign them to do new tasks quickly. We want to leverage the workers know-how on the specific process, use his brain power combined with the robot muscle power. 17  
  • 18. One way to simplify the teaching of a robot is by having the ability to drag the robot arm around. Then you can avoid learning many of the robot kinematics concepts. As most of you know, this feature is available on commercial robots such as the Universal Robots, Baxter and the Kuka Light Weight, just to name a few. Moving the robot is the first thing, then you need to add some instructions. And since my iPhone proves to me everyday that it can’t understand my accent when I talk to Sirri, we’ll stick to visual interfaces. We need to add a layer on top of the pure, line by line programming to enable the worker to input high level commands. This is well done on Baxter and UR and I’ll show you and example on how it can be done on a traditional industrial robot. 18  
  • 19. To help our welder, who is having a hard time learning how to program a robot, we’ve developed a product called Kinetiq Teaching. This can be used so the welder can actually teach the robot with no in depth knowledge of programming. A sensor is added to a Motoman robot to enable the welder to move the robot around without using the teach pendant. On the teach pendant, an intuitive interface enables the welder to instruct the robot on what to do without writing a line of code. Every button he can press on the teach pendant touch screen corresponds to something he understands: record a point, start welding, adjust welding parameters, etc. 19  
  • 20. Robo9cs  today,  and  manufacturing  in  general,  use  a  lot  of  dedicated  tooling.  If   you’re  dealing  with  a  high  mix  of  products,  this  approach  makes  it  impossible  to   jus9fy  the  ROI  for  robo9cs.     A  robot  is  flexible,  it  can  move  anywhere  in  space.  If  you  have  enough  payload,  reach,   and  repeatability,  you’d  be  able  to  use  it  in  all  you  produc9ons.  But  if  you  need  to   come  up  with  a  dedicated  tool  for  every  product  made,  costs  will  add  up  preUy   quickly.  Costs  for  buying,  designing,  storing  and  changing  the  tools.     In  order  for  robots  to  be  economical  in  the  agile  factory,  the  hardware  also  needs  to   be  highly  adaptable  so  that  you  have  one  plaWorm,  one  tool  unit  that  is  generic   enough  to  be  used  for  a  variety  of  different  tasks.  Nobody  wants  to  constantly   change  the  hardware  or  to  do  the  accompanying  necessary  engineering  work.   Flexible  components  are  key.     Remember  that  in  Agile,  a  small  batch  must  be  as  economical  as  a  large  one.  The  goal   of  flexible  hardware  is  to  provide  flexibility  at  a  fixed  cost.         20  
  • 21. Again, robots are flexible. These days, more work has to be done on the tooling, like grippers for pick and place. Here are some different approaches for flexible gripping that are on, or about to enter the market. Some of these are from the folks I’ve shared the stage with 2 days ago during the workshop on manipulation. These are different approaches, different ways to pick different types of objects, but the goal is the same: being able to pick all the parts with a single tool to reduce dedicated tooling cost and eliminate changeover down time. 21  
  • 22. So what can be better than having a flexible arm with a flexible gripper? Having two sets working together. Think of what you can hold with one hand versus what you can hold with two. The range of objects that you can hold with two arms is very large because you have more force, but also more contact points. Here is a short clip of such an application, which involves assembling doors. As you can see, using flexible grippers on a dual arm robot really expands the range of parts that you can handle with the robot. Some integrators are even exploring the use of grippers not only to grab parts, but also to grab and use tools. 22  
  • 23. Another aspect to having robots as an everyday tool is having them seamlessly integrated into the workspace. Being able to move around in a factory is another important factor for agility. Just as we can assign an operator to work on a machine for a specific job, then have him move to another machine or job depending on the workload, we want to be able to assign the robots to different stations. How the workflow is arranged has a big impact on productivity and flexibility. For shops with small runs, there might not be enough work all the time at a specific station for a robot. But if you can reassign the robot to another station, you’ll be maximizing its use and get a better return on this investment. And not having unused robots bolted to the floor will help you maximize valuable floor space too. 23  
  • 24. One way to achieve this is to have robots that are safe to work alongside humans without fences. Different robots that claim to be safe are shown on the screen. They all use slightly different approaches, but the general idea is to have a robot that can’t exert more than a given force or apply more than a given torque at its joints. A new RIA, ISO safety standard also looks at how the traditional industrial robots can share the same workspace as a human using safety enabling devices, such as a mat or a light curtain, and having the robot revert to teach mode when a human is in the workspace. 24  
  • 25. Another way of making a robot part of the workspace is by having transportable robots. Robots that can be easily moved from one place to another in the factory. Again, Universal Robots and Baxter are two examples. For some tasks, these new collaborative robots won’t have enough payload, reach or repeatability; so an industrial robot will have to be used. Here is a video from a Swedish spinoff showing a mobile manipulator using a docking system to go from one machine to next, basically going where the work is. 25  
  • 26. The last aspect that our robots must have to be used as an everyday tool is that they must be able to upgrade and evolve. This map is from Frank Tobe’s robot report showing the companies working on robotics around the world. There are also a lot of laboratories doing more fundamental work. There are a lot of developments in robotics these days, many great minds are working on it. It takes a lot of time and effort to bring these technologies to market, but they are coming. We want to be able to use them today, not wait 3 years for the next robot controller release. •  •  •  Use the latest and greatest flexible tooling. Use the new, more capable, more affordable sensors. Use the latest advancement in software for robot vision, force control, application packages, etc. 26  
  • 27. I’m making the point for Agile manufacturing here today, but as an industry, we are not agile at all. At Robotiq, as a tooling manufacturer, we waste a lot of time not adding value for the customer. We need to support 10 communication protocols, have 100s of mechanical coupling to attach our tools to the various robots that are available. It is a lot of work to port our software from one proprietary robot controller to another. Mobile app developers can cover 80% of the market if they develop for 2 operating systems: Android and iOS. To reach that same 80% in industrial robotics, we would need to support maybe 6 different controllers and some of them do not even have a third party development platform. All phones will use a USB plug connection and a wifi connection. In robotics, you have Ethernet IP, TCP IP, Can, Profinet, Profibus, EtherCAT, you name it. Some even have their own protocol… Robots are difficult to make, let’s simplify our lives. We should work on standards to speed up the overall development pace. If there are big robot end users in the room, you should be pushing the robotics industry to do this, you would greatly benefit from it. 27  
  • 28. I’ve just talked about robots as a worker’s tool. Before my final words, I’d like to show you some examples of autonomous robots today. To reach complete autonomy, you need to bring a lot of things together. First, you need to be able to sense your environment with vision systems, laser scanners, force, tactile sensors, microphones, etc. Then you have to make decisions using this information, and finally take action, move the arms, move the robots, etc. How close are we to fully autonomous robots? Here is a video that illustrates what is the state-of-the-art today in autonomous robots for manufacturing and unstructured environments. The first robot is called Annie from the Fraunhofer IFF, an applied research group in Germany. Following Fraunhofer’s video are two short clips of the Tartan Rescue Team from Carnegie Mellon University, who is participating in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. These are two of the finest robotics groups in the world. When you understand the tremendous amount of work and know how that it takes for these two robots to do these tasks autonomously, you have to be impressed. We are very proud that these groups chose our Grippers to equip their robots. The reason why I’m showing you this is to give you a sense of where we are in autonomous robot manipulators: Many challenges have been tackled, many things need to be accomplished before fully autonomous robots enter the factory. Does it need to be faster? Yes. Will it have to be more robust to meet the variations found in most environments? Yes. But we’ll get there. I fully trust the robotics community. 28  
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