Organizations systematize processes and operations through technology to produce more desirable outcomes. Automation can lead to greater operational efficiencies, reduced risk, lower cost, and a better end-product or customer experience. These enhanced outcomes can produce returns that make investments in automation worthwhile for businesses. Here are five organizations getting ahead with automation.
Many device creators leverage automation in their production, and Apple is no exception. However, Apple institutes additional automation well after the production of a phone. Starting in 2016, with its Liam robot, the company began leveraging automation to systematically and accurately deconstruct old iPhones into their constituent parts for recycling. The robot can disassemble and then separate pieces into different groups in order to maximize material recovery. By 2018, Apple revealed their next recycling automation bot, Daisy. This robot extends its abilities to nine different iPhone models and can disassemble up to 200 of them an hour. Apple’s use of this automation allows more efficient recycling of materials for future production and can help decrease the need to mine the Earth’s precious metals. However, these recycling processes will need to become cheaper and more abundant as time goes on, and recyclers will need to effectively obtain more old devices, in order to make a real impact. For now, Apple seems to stand alone as the device maker with such an advanced automated recycling ability.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, uses an autonomous database to help operate the world’s largest, most powerful particle accelerator. The 17-mile Hadron Particle Collider is also the largest machine in the world and one of the most complex. In order to successfully operate, the particle collider requires massive amounts of information to be quickly organized and made available for analysis. For this, CERN uses Oracle’s autonomous database to assist with the management and accessibility of 150,000 data points captured per second, year-round, and used by more than 1,000 specialists through hundreds of applications. This database, which has been reported by the company to be one of its most successful products to date, auto patches and tunes itself, while organizing information in order to ensure reliability. The various operational data captured on this machine is used by CERN to optimize the accelerators as they collide particles together at nearly the speed of light. The experiments conducted with this technology, and the autonomous database supporting it, help scientists investigate the nature of the building blocks of our reality.
This tech and e-commerce giant widely employs automated warehouse fleets. In 2012, Amazon purchased Kiva Systems, the maker of this fleet technology, and placed the company under its umbrella as Amazon Robotics. Amazon now leverages more than 100,000 autonomous robots to effectively move shelves of goods to their desired locations on the warehouse floor. These robots, serving as moving platforms for the shelves, not only reduce reliance on manual labor in the fulfillment process, but they also enable highly efficient route coordination as items get to their requested locations. The company even provides workers vests with sensors that signal their location to fleet members, so they can detect humans from farther away and produce an optimal route around, or safely to, the individual. In these Amazon fulfillment warehouses, the worker doesn’t go to the item; the item comes to the worker, thanks to the use of an autonomous fleet.
It comes as no surprise we are on the cusp of a major transportation revolution with autonomous vehicles. In this race, Alphabet’s Waymo currently leads the pack in fully autonomous miles driven and reported disengagement rate. The company increasingly utilizes these vehicles to offer ride services and will eventually do so with no safety net drivers in the car. At that point, they will have completely eliminated the variable costs of drivers. Their advanced artificial intelligence, sensors, and large number of fully autonomous training miles enable these advances and present potential advantages to other ride services that use drivers, as well as those that seem a little further behind in the race to complete autonomy. Waymo expects to expand its fleet to more than 20,000 vehicles by 2022.
From custom parts to shoes and toys, we are increasingly finding use cases for 3D printing. The construction industry, and specifically home-building, represents a deserving opportunity for automation through this technology. ICON is helping make it a reality. Their Vulcan II serves as the first commercially available construction printer. It automates the construction of homes with a large, but mobile, 3D printer that ejects an advanced cement-based material. ICON’s technology is able to print a home in 24 hours and presents significant reduction in costs. This solution offers an opportunity to effectively build suitable homes in developing countries and opens a door to more efficient home building everywhere.
Organizations derive value from intelligent software that can systematically follow set logic, guide hardware, as well as identify patterns and act more autonomously. This automation helps to streamline operations to support the creation of products and services. It is expected that organizations continually find lucrative use cases for automation, balancing it in their workforce and operations to maximize productivity as time goes on.