Automation has deep roots in the automotive world. Before most other industries explored automation as a solution, automakers were using industrial robots and sensor technology in their assembly plants to increase productivity and efficiency. So, what role does automation play in the automotive industry today—and what could be in store for the future?
Most automotive factories leverage some degree of automation at nearly every stage of vehicle production. Robots, machine vision, and automation work together to complete an array of tasks from welding and assembly to inspection and testing.
However, not all automakers utilize the same level of automation. Some rely on partially manual processes that automate simple tasks but give humans the final say in QA and compliance management. Others use automated single machines to perform one specific task, or combine them in an automated production line, passing the product from machine to machine.
This semi-automated system from Dynamic Design Solutions, Inc., inserts PEM nuts and studs and assembles multiple types of busbar components for an automotive manufacturer.
Less prevalent today are end-to-end automated factories. These factories can run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year without human supervision.
CAR ASSEMBLY ROBOTS
Assembly robots can move faster and more precisely than humans and are easier to implement than some special-purpose equipment. In car manufacturing plants, robotic arms can tackle tasks like screw driving, windshield installation and wheel mounting. They’re known to increase outputs and efficiency while decreasing costs and risks for human workers.
This automated vehicle floor plug insertion system, developed by FANUC for General Motors, helps relieve workers from the ergonomic strain of the manual process and improves production time.
ROBOTICS FOR COLLABORATIVE APPLICATIONS
These robotic solutions offer a more flexible, lightweight alternative to traditional industrial-grade robots. They require a smaller footprint on the manufacturing floor, making them easier to integrate into existing structures. Beyond optimizing space, these robots can reduce costs associated with making modifications, like adding new content to vehicles, in manufacturing facilities.
In the automotive industry, robotic technology is commonly used to take on “less ergonomically favorable tasks,” as described by Universal Robots, removing human employees from “strenuous and health-damaging activities.” They can be stationed alongside human workers—versus fenced off like traditional robots—which helps to supercharge efficiency and speed in automotive production.
Robots can also work collaboratively and efficiently with one another. An FCC Industrial Systems site in the Czech Republic uses multiple Single-Arm YuMi® robots, created by ABB Inc., to help power their part loading processes.
ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION (RPA)
RPA uses software to automate repetitive, rules-based tasks, often related to business processes. The easy implementation and quick ROI of RPA have positioned the technology for significant future growth. Based on research from consulting firm Synechron, RPA is expected to become an $8.7 billion market by 2024.
In the automotive space, this technology is used to complete historically laborious, time-consuming tasks—think inventory and freight management, supplier onboarding, regulatory compliance, order processing and more. RPA helps ensure accuracy while freeing up time and money typically spent on these back-office operations.
What’s next for RPA in automotive? According to a McKinsey & Company report, the automation of knowledge work is poised to be one of the most disruptive technologies by 2025, especially when used with other automation technologies like AI and machine vision.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)
AI is essential in today’s automotive industry. According to Deloitte, the automotive AI market size is forecasted to grow to $27 billion by 2025—more than double its size today.
AI plays a role throughout the automotive value chain, from manufacturing tasks like design and production to service jobs like predictive maintenance and insurance. However, one of the most exciting applications of AI today is in transportation—powering driver assistance technology and the development of autonomous vehicles.
While driverless cars have yet to become the predominant vehicles on our roads, autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) are already hard at work within automotive manufacturing facilities like the Mercedes-Benz Türk plant in Aksaray, Turkey. These omnidirectional, mobile platforms, created by KUKA Robotics Corporation, help connect individual assembly sections for maximum flexibility and free navigation.
AI is powering automation across the automotive industry—and beyond. Check out more applications of intelligent automation.
AUTOMATION IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY: ONLY PICKING UP SPEED
Automation is essential in keeping automotive companies competitive today. It is applied throughout the manufacturing process, plays a growing role in back-office maintenance and may even power the cars of the future.
Want to know more? Don’t miss Automate, the largest showcase of automation in North America,May 22–25, 2023, in Detroit, Michigan, USA. See many of the game-changing automation companies mentioned above on the show floor. Register FREE today.
« View All Blogs