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products. pricing. experience.
technology for manufacturing and logistics. This includes the
ability to see and sort different objects, say, in a factory, according to the website www.gizmododo.com.
The acquisitions have led to speculation by a number of web-
site blogs and articles in the New York Times. After Google pur-
chased Boston Dynamics, another robotic firm, the Times wrote
this: “The deal is also the clearest indication yet that Google is
intent on building a new class of autonomous systems that might
do anything from warehouse work to package delivery and even
Noting the diverse use of industrial robots, the Times men-
tioned the SentrySafe factory in Rochester, NY, where a welder
does not wear heat-resistant gloves and a face shield. Instead, a
one-ton robot that towers eight feet above the production line
spot-welds the tops and bottoms of safes before they continue
down the assembly line, where a (human) colleague works some
20 feet away.
Of course Google isn’t the only technology company that
has made a major investment in robotics. Just a few years ago,
Amazon paid $775 million for Kiva Systems, a robotics company.
Amazon reportedly will install up to 18,000 of these robots in
their fulfillment centers to increase order efficiency. These short,
orange-colored robots can carry and move entire shelf units of
products to a central shipping point.
The question as to what all this means for jobs in the future is
a hotly debated subject. Robotics will clearly see growth in the
software and engineering areas.
But one thing is for sure: The days of the 1950s where one in
four people were involved in some type of manufacturing is no
longer here. Robotics, industrial automation, machine vision, and
the like will make us more competitive in the world marketplace
but it will also mean a severe change in the skills needed by manufacturers and distributors in the future.
It could also prove to be more costly for some manufacturers
to redesign their factory floors because of the excess height and
weight of some of these larger robots. Of course, nothing compared to the size of good old Robbie the Robot.
Jack Keough is contributing editor of Industrial Distribution. He
can be reached at John.Keough@comcast.net.