Manufacturing, warehousing, material handling, supply chain automation—a robot may be just the right fit for your SMB
By Tom Green
November 08, 2012
WELCOME TO ROBOTS AT WORK
Want to know if a robot is right for your business? Want to see how and why robots have been entering workplaces everywhere? Are you wondering about what jobs they can do and are doing right now —and the business cases behind why they were put to work?
You’re not alone. Millions of small to medium businesses everywhere are turning a thought or two, maybe more, to the idea of a robot lending a couple of strong, tireless and intelligent hands to ease their work loads.
Some are less expensive than a delivery van
Here at Robotics Business Review, we’ve been following robots into the workforce for a year now, reporting on the ever-growing list of jobs they perform—both manual and professional. We’re amazed at the variety and importance of their work, how well they perform and the inventiveness of business owners in putting these fascinating machines on the payroll.
The phenomenon of robots going to work underwent a major uptick in 2012, and 2013 looks to be even more significant now that “co-worker” robots are also on the job scene. Led by Baxter (Rethink Robotics), the ranks of other co-worker robot offerings from other manufacturers are starting to arrive with some very impressive machines. The trickle down of these machines into the SMB environment is quickening. It’s only a matter of time until there are showrooms of co-worker robots at Lowe’s and Home Depot offering favorable credit terms.
Baxter, the leading machine in the co-worker robot movement, is six-feet tall, weighs three-hundred pounds and costs $20,000. Baxter’s capabilities are stunning. And like everything else over time, the price will undoubtedly fall.
Rodney Brooks, founder, chairman and CTO of Rethink, likens the emergence of the co-worker robot in manufacturing to the tractor in agriculture. In 1917, farmers, at first, distrusted and rejected the Fordson tractor. History now shows us that the tractor revolutionized agriculture.
Will the co-worker robot do for the supply chain what the tractor did for farming? Many think so. And if so, what are the social and labor implications of this coming transformation? Today, some ninety years removed from the Fordson invasion and automation of farming, only two percent of the U.S. population is still on the farm.
Robots at Work will chronicle the transformation of the supply chain
Robots at Work is a new column that reaches out to the 27 million SMBs in the U.S., and to the millions more around the globe, who are toying with the notion—or who are quite serious— about employing a robot in their business.
We’ll bring you the robots and their stories as they enter the workplace. We’ll recount the process of those SMBs who took the leap, acquired a robot and are now happy for it; and we’ll also show you other attempts that, well, didn’t quite work out.
We’ll show you what robot models are available for SMBs, who makes them, what each can do and how much each costs. We’ll encourage manufacturers to reach out to you to begin a dialogue and to pitch for your business—right here from the pages of Robotics Business Review. We’ll also present for your consideration what independent testing laboratories, researchers and early adopters are saying about those very same machines.
Like the tractor before it, the co-worker robot will be a disruptive and transformative technology for 2013. “The world hates change,” said Charles Kettering, founder of Delco, head of research at General Motors from 1920 to 1947, and great disruptor himself, “yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.” Please join us on the journey as the robots march in.
See: More “Robots at Work”
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