Per Vergard Nerseth (left), Managing Director of ABB Robotics and Sami Atiya, President of ABB’s Robotics and Motion Division with ABB’s new single-arm collaborative robot, previewed at iREX 2017 in Tokyo.

The theme for all of ABB’s activities in Tokyo this week is our amazing vision for the Factory of the Future.

Our team from RM is incredibly well represented at the iREX show taking place in Tokyo right now. Today’s preview of the newest member of the YuMi family member may be the big headline story, but all of ABB’s displays and presentations at the expo are drawing plenty of attention, and we have lots of exciting offerings on display. The theme for all of ABB’s activities in Tokyo this week is our amazing vision for the Factory of the Future.

Manufacturing is in the middle of a truly transformative time. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is radically changing how products are made. One of the driving forces behind this change is digitalization. At our ABB stand at iREX, visitors can see numerous examples of the new digital technologies that are opening the floodgates to Industry 4.0.

Anyone who follows ABB knows that last year we combined these technologies into a comprehensive digital offering – ABB Ability. ABB Ability connects factories to the power of the industrial internet and turns data in the virtual world into real value for our customers in the physical world.

What does that mean in practical business terms? It means we can use data to prevent breakdowns and minimize downtime. At iREX, we’re presenting many examples of this in our Connected Services demonstrations. It means we can debug and optimize new production lines in the virtual world, before setting them up for real on the factory floor. Our RobotStudio and VR/AR demos are opening people’s eyes to how this can dramatically reduce disruptions to production. It also means we can leverage data to improve quality. Examples on display at iREX include our solutions for connected paint atomizers and 3D quality inspection.

One of the things that really sets apart the Factory of the Future is how it ties intelligent devices like robots and drives to control systems and cloud services. Manufacturing is shifting from making large quantities of the same product for a long time, to making smaller lots, with more variety, in shorter cycles. Manufacturers are feeling pressure to become more flexible. That’s the only way they can keep pace with the market. And all of this comes on top of the usual cost and productivity pressures.

As manufacturing processes become more complex and dispersed, conventional automation solutions simply cannot keep up. They are too inflexible. That is why ABB is getting ready for the Age of Collaborative Automation. This age will incorporate entirely new ways for people and robots to work together. For example, our SafeMove2 software lets people work side-by-side with robots without needing to shut down production for safety reasons. When we say, “collaboration” at ABB, we mean improving flexibility and productivity as well as safety. Collaboration can also mean making robots easier to install, program and operate.

At iREX, we’re showing off solutions that give manufacturers the flexibility to produce smaller lots at a higher level of variety, while maintaining quality and productivity. That is a big deal.

Our latest addition to the YuMi family represents these emerging patterns perfectly. Like YuMi, it can work safely with people. Its small footprint makes it easy to add to existing production lines. And with lead-through programming, no specialized training is needed to operate it.

It will soon be used by all kinds of manufacturers – from the electronics and watchmaking sector, to a host of other industries with products that require small parts assembly. It is revolutionary, because it sets manufacturers free to design flexible production processes that are oriented to today’s consumers.

All of us at ABB are very proud of the latest addition to the YuMi family. It’s our smallest and cleverest collaborative robot yet. Our portfolio of collaborative robots is really changing the whole landscape of manufacturing on a global scale. And they stand proudly at the center of the vision for the Factory of the Future that we are presenting at iREX 2017!

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About the author

Sami Atiya

I'm the President of ABB's Robotics & Discrete Automation Business.
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