The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), also known as Industry 4.0, uses actuators and smart sensors to capture and analyze data in real-time. The information allows plant employees the ability to drive accurate and fast business decisions. In addition, the potential exists to improve critical processes through an ecosystem of connected devices that can sense, communicate and store information through public and private data communication infrastructures. The benefits include optimized predictive maintenance, more efficient field service, asset tracking, customer satisfaction, and improved facility management. One type of actuator, robots, will be the focus of this blog post.
George Devol built the first practical robot in 1954 that led to the development of a multifunctional device called Unimate. The first commercial installation was in 1962 at General Motors. There has been significant growth in use since that time. The International Federation of Robotics reports that 422,271 robots were installed worldwide in 2018. The organization projects that 576,000 will have been installed by 2022. Modern industry recognizes the importance of industrial automation in operational and back office areas.
Last week I wrote about what I saw as the benefits of a hybrid career in trades and college. When I began a career in manufacturing more than 40 years ago, the equipment in the plants I worked on would seem archaic. Our tool room still had a few pieces of equipment where flat leather belts had formerly driven them from overhead line drives. My work was on the mechanical side, where I would need an electrician to help with that aspect of equipment repair or rebuild. However, if I were now in my late teens or early twenties, I would give strong consideration to a career in robotics.
There are an endless number of things to discover about robotics. A lot of it is just too fantastic for people to believe.
Daniel H. Wilson
During recent tours of Virginia manufacturing plants, I saw several existing robots with plans to add more in subsequent years. The benefits of successful implementation of robotics in manufacturing can lead to a competitive advantage when process designs allow for maximum efficiency. Robotic process automation provides unparalleled advantages for high-volume and repetitive manufacturing operations. Robots are highly flexible and can be programmed to run 24/7 in lights-out settings for continuous production. Costs have continued to lower, making the technology viable from small to large manufacturing operations. The technology is further an opportunity to fill the significant manufacturing employment gap that will continue to grow in the coming years as baby boomers retire. The use of robotics improves plant safety when used for dangerous, repetitive, and unsafe work. Ultimately, domestic companies in the US become more competitive globally through higher throughput, quick ROI, increased output capacity, and energy reductions.
The field of robotics offers a wide variety of opportunities for individuals interested in this career sector. Examples include:
Those with an interest in progressing through each job level would require ongoing work experience and additional training.
A wide variety of education options exist for individuals interested in the field of robotics. Courses and certification opportunities are available from providers like Coursera, edX, Udacity, and Udemy. Community colleges have certificate and associate degree opportunities to include Advanced Manufacturing Technology with a specialization in Mechatronics from Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave, Virginia. The University of Hartford offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Robotics Engineering. Those interested in a Master of Science in Robotics can find a program at Northwestern University. Finally, the person wanting to earn a Doctoral Program in Robotics can explore the one offered by Carnegie Mellon University. These are just a few examples of the education options for a person in this career field.
The website at careerexplorer.com lists the salary ranges for each of the states in the US. For example, the salary range in the Commonwealth of Virginia starts at $57,020 and reaches a current maximum of $164,210, with an average salary of $122,940 per year. A robotics engineer designs robotic systems that perform duties that keep employees safe doing the design work efficiently and effectively.
The person interested in a rewarding career with a high income should consider one in robotics. Demand for those with this education and experience will grow significantly in the coming years. Furthermore, many educational opportunities can quickly lead to an entry-level position that can evolve to increasing challenge, responsibility, and income levels.
Individuals interested in further information should explore the RoboticsCareer.org website. In addition, there is a wide range of data on robotics career options and education providers.
I am grateful the manufacturing sector is moving away from the hot, dirty, and noisy environments of the past. As IIoT or Industry 4.0 expands, manufacturing will become a more desirable vocation option for those entering the workforce or looking to make a career transition.
Next week, the blog topic will continue with the shift to expand the employment pool for the manufacturing sector.
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Cover Image Credit: Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash