Robots are often welcome in the factory to lift heavy objects or to perform high speed picking and placing activities on production or packaging lines. But sometimes robots get bad press, like when people think they will be replaced by these moving machines. So when the start-up MusashiAI, a joint venture between SixAI Ltd. based in Israel and Musashi Seimitsu of Japan (an affiliate of Honda Motor Corporation), launched a robot placement agency, alarms went off. Does this mean that machine operators will soon lose their jobs?
Well, yes and no. Some people in the factory may be relocated, but the goal is to give the robots rigorous, repetitive tasks and redeploy their human counterparts to higher value jobs.
“Our mission is to redistribute human labor, not to take it away and fire people,” said Ran Poliakine, co-founder of MusashiAI. “The goal of the joint venture has always been to work on our vision of Industry 4.0, where human workers do human work and are not trapped in manual industrial work. “
The robot placement agency is actually a Robots as a Service (RaaS) business model that gives industrial manufacturers the opportunity to source the necessary manpower instead of investing large amounts of capital in the buying robots. Robot work is billed by the hour or a salary based on the task performed.
And in this case, the robot employees for hire are the company’s autonomous visual quality control inspector and autonomous forklift driver coupled with an artificial intelligence-based mobile robot fleet management system ( IA), which MusashiAI officially rolled out in July.
Human workers have traditionally been relegated to visual inspection of quality control of final industrial products, as robots have not been able to outperform or even match human ability to detect and identify defects in surface quickly and accurately. But MusashiAI’s autonomous robotic online visual quality control inspection system uses state-of-the-art image processing and deep learning algorithm for rapid learning of “new parts”.
photo credit: MusashiAI
“We believe we are one of the first to bring autonomous AI robots to the market that can outperform human workers in speed and accuracy during detailed visual inspection,” Poliakine said. “Most visual inspectors look at large geometric defects, our robots are capable of detecting surface-level defects as small as 50 microns.”
In addition, the autonomous forklift can support up to 1,500 kg of load capacity and is constantly self-optimizing. It navigates the warehouse or factory using MusashiAI’s proprietary fleet management system which uses sophisticated perception and decision-making software in combination with standard inexpensive HD cameras. “Our robotic forklift driver comes with an advanced fleet management system that uses AI to predict accidents or obstacles before they happen,” Poliakine said. “These drivers are safer than human drivers and bring huge efficiencies to the plant at a very low cost, because their hardware is not expensive at all – everything is done by software.”
photo credit: MusashiAI
The autonomous forklift navigates the roads between human workers using unique technology that combines cameras with a “bird’s-eye view”, a factory ground control tower and a central processing unit. The majority of traditional fleet management systems rely on expensive cameras and sensory equipment placed on the driver’s body. “We have taken a ‘distributed organs’ approach with our drivers: The eyes are industry standard HD cameras that monitor the factory floor from above and are linked to our AI management system. that processes information and keeps forklift operators away from potential accidents or obstacles. “said Poliakine.
Live trials of robotic technology were announced in December 2019 at the Musashi Seimitsu factory. According to the company, in less than 6 months, the test results exceeded expectations and overcome the technological barriers known in the autonomous industrial robotics market. For example, MusashiAI robots require a small sample of “good” quality parts and can learn to identify a “good” part from a “bad” part in a matter of hours, just like a human does. This is a major breakthrough in AI learning models, Poliakine said.
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In addition to relieving people from monotonous and tedious tasks, autonomous robots are gaining ground due to social distancing rules resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to its initial commitment with an advance payment of $ 10 million, Musashi Seimitsu is willing to expand the deployment of MusashiAI’s autonomous quality control inspectors and autonomous forklift operators at its factories globally, subject to that the company respects certain stages of development. MusashiAI has also secured a Proof of Concept (POC) for its standalone QC inspector with one of the world’s largest bearing manufacturers. In addition, MusashiAI will lead three POCs for Autonomous Forklift Operators and Central Management System with major Israeli retail and consumer staples (FMCG) groups starting in the fourth quarter of this year. These agreements will be the first time the robots will be tested outside the Musashi Seimitsu group.
“Around the world, nearly 30 million people work in grueling visual inspection jobs. Many of these people suffer from chronic health problems as a result of this work, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. There is no doubt that many of them have been put on leave as many industrial environments are now dangerous due to the coronavirus. These people are not key workers, but what they do is essential, ”Poliakine said. “Companies will need to inspect their end products, and we are offering the world a solution that can protect employees from this deadly virus and the chronic health issues associated with their work,” [as well as] the major economic danger of crippling business for much longer.
In addition, this is a relatively risk-free business decision, Poliakine noted. “These robots are designed with people in mind – the vision is that they fit easily into the production floor where there will always be human workers, but free other workers from this particular chore. They are user friendly and easy to deploy wherever they are needed. Our OpEx model means that customers can deploy robots when and where they need them, without significant investment.
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