Key Insights For The Future Of Industrial Automation In 2024

Key Insights For The Future Of Industrial Automation In 2024

Key Insights For The Future Of Industrial Automation In 2024

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Industrial automation has become the backbone of modern manufacturing. It refers to the use of technology, including robots, machines, and computer systems, to perform tasks traditionally done by humans. From assembling cars to packaging food, automation plays a crucial role in increasing efficiency, accuracy, and productivity across various industries.

As we’ve briefly discussed in our article on industrial process automation examples, the future of industrial automation is brimming with exciting possibilities driven by several key factors. The ever-increasing demand for efficiency and productivity pushes manufacturers to adopt more sophisticated automation solutions.

Labour shortages and an ageing workforce in many developed nations further fuel this need.Thankfully, advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are paving the way for a new era of intelligent industrial automation trends. IIoT enables machines and devices to collect and share data, while AI and ML algorithms analyse this data to make real-time decisions and optimise processes. Additionally, collaborative robots (cobots) are emerging as a game-changer, fostering a safer and more collaborative work environment.

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The AI and Machine Learning Revolution

AI and ML are revolutionising automation systems by enabling machines to learn and adapt. Here are some specific applications transforming the landscape:

  • Predictive Maintenance: AI can analyse sensor data from equipment to predict potential failures before they occur. This allows for preventative maintenance, minimising downtime and production losses. Early detection of issues can also prevent catastrophic failures that could damage expensive equipment and pose safety risks to workers.
  • Quality Control: Machine vision powered by AI can be used for real-time defect detection in products, ensuring consistent quality control throughout the manufacturing process. AI algorithms can be trained to identify even the most subtle imperfections, leading to a significant reduction in defective products reaching the end consumer.
  • Process Optimization: Machine learning algorithms can analyse vast amounts of data from sensors and machines to identify areas for improvement. This data-driven approach allows for continuous optimization of production processes, leading to increased efficiency and cost savings. By analysing factors like machine performance, material usage, and energy consumption, ML can identify opportunities to streamline processes, reduce waste, and ultimately improve the bottom line.

While AI holds immense potential, it’s important to acknowledge potential challenges. Security concerns surrounding data privacy and system vulnerabilities require careful consideration. Malicious actors could potentially exploit vulnerabilities in AI systems to disrupt operations or steal sensitive data.

Robust cybersecurity measures and ethical considerations in data collection and usage will be paramount. Additionally, implementing and managing AI systems effectively necessitates a skilled workforce capable of understanding and utilising these complex technologies. Businesses will need to invest in training programs and hire specialists to ensure the successful integration and ongoing support of AI solutions.

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The Rise of Collaborative Robots

Cobots are a new generation of automation technology specifically designed to work safely alongside human workers. Unlike traditional industrial robots that operate in isolated cages, cobots are lightweight, flexible, and easy to program. This makes them ideal for tasks like assembly line assistance, material handling, and product inspection.

The rise of cobots presents several advantages:

Safer Work Environment: Cobots are equipped with safety features such as pressure-sensitive sensors and limited movement ranges that minimise the risk of injury to human workers. This allows for closer collaboration and a more integrated production environment where humans and machines can work together seamlessly.

Increased Productivity: Cobots can handle repetitive and physically demanding tasks, freeing up human workers to focus on higher-level activities requiring creativity and problem-solving skills. For instance, cobots can handle tasks like welding or parts assembly, allowing human workers to focus on quality control, machine supervision, or complex problem-solving situations. This ultimately leads to a more productive workforce and a more efficient production process.

Versatility for Various Applications: Cobots are adaptable and can be programmed for a wide range of tasks across different industries. From automotive assembly lines to electronics manufacturing and even delicate tasks in food processing, cobots are finding increasing applications. Their user-friendly programming interfaces allow for quick deployment and adaptation to new tasks, making them a valuable asset for a dynamic manufacturing environment.

However, it’s important to recognize that cobots also have limitations. Their payload capacity is generally lower compared to traditional robots, and they may not be suitable for highly complex tasks requiring dexterity or precision. Cobots are well-suited for tasks with a high degree of repetition and a defined range of motion. Additionally, the initial investment cost of cobots, while lower than traditional robots, can still be a significant factor for some businesses.

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The Future of Human-Machine Collaboration

The future of industrial automation lies in human-machine collaboration, not human replacement. Humans and machines possess complementary strengths. Humans excel at creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving, while machines bring unmatched speed, precision, and tireless work ethic. By leveraging these combined strengths, industries can achieve optimal results. Imagine a scenario where a human worker oversees a team of cobots on an assembly line, performing quality checks and making adjustments as needed, while the cobots handle the precise and repetitive tasks of assembling the product. This type of collaboration allows for a more efficient and adaptable production process, with humans providing the cognitive oversight and machines handling the high-volume tasks.

Upskilling the workforce is crucial for this collaborative future. Workers will need to develop new skills and adapt to working alongside intelligent machines. Training programs focused on AI, data analysis, and robot programming will be essential to prepare the workforce for these evolving roles. Workers may need to learn to maintain and troubleshoot AI systems, collaborate effectively with cobots, and analyse data to identify areas for improvement. This will require a shift in mindset from purely manual labour to a more technical and analytical approach to manufacturing.

However, this upskilling presents exciting opportunities for career development. New roles will emerge in areas like AI system management, cobot programming, and data analysis, offering rewarding career paths for those willing to adapt. Governments and educational institutions will also need to play a role in providing training programs and reskilling initiatives to ensure a smooth workforce transition towards a more automated future.


The future of industrial automation is bright. Advancements in AI, ML, IIoT, and cobots are poised to transform manufacturing processes, leading to significant gains in efficiency, productivity, and product quality. While challenges like security concerns and workforce reskilling exist, the potential benefits far outweigh them. As humans and machines learn to collaborate effectively, a new era of intelligent manufacturing will emerge, creating a more productive, safer, and exciting future for industrial automation. This future holds the promise of not only increased manufacturing output but also a more engaging and rewarding work environment for the human operators. By embracing technological advancements and investing in human capital, Okura seeks to unlock the true potential of industrial automation and propel themselves towards a new era of manufacturing excellence.