In my previous post, we discussed Fully Autonomous Electric Feeder Ships. Fully autonomous forklifts are even less sexy, but they have a potential to be far more disruptive.
Veronica Pascual, the founder of Asti, builds AGVs, or automated guided vehicles such as fork-lifts, stackers and pallet trucks.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch expects robots to be performing 45 percent of all manufacturing tasks by 2025, compared to 10 percent in 2015.
Bloomberg reports Forget Cars, for One Spaniard the Autonomous Future Is Forklifts.
Founded by Pascual’s parents in 1982, the company [Asti] is housed in a 5,500 square meter building at the end of a shabby road. About 150 employees clad in red jackets and black t-shirts build automated vehicles with names like RoboFasts, Easybots and Hardbots. On one side of the factory, engineers and other employees hunch over tables working with the patented technology that allows the vehicles to rely on sensors and lasers to guide their movements.
Much of the space is given up to testing, some vehicles moving freely while others trundle down pre-designed corridors. One project is focused on automated battery changing modules, where vehicles can have their low-charge batteries replaced automatically, without human intervention.
One business model Pascual hopes to change is the traditional factory line, swapping fixed robots for moving ones. “Rather than taking parts to assembly lines, as has been always done, with automated vehicles you have the chance to move parts around, so a car-maker doesn’t have to be tied to the assembly lines anymore,” Pascual says.
Asti sells more than 60 percent of its vehicles abroad, with France as its main market. In 2015, installs of industrial robots surged in Spain by 63 percent, according to the most recent data compiled by the International Federation of Robotics. There is also room to grow. In the same year, there were 150 robots per 10,000 employees in Spain’s manufacturing industry while France had about 127 per 10,000, compared to 301 in Germany.
Two Key Ideas
- Swap fixed robots for moving ones
- Use automated forklifts to swap batteries in electric cars
Recharge time is one of the key issues holding back use of electric cars. Long ago, I envisioned a battery swapping mechanism.
But the batteries are very heavy and not easy to swap. Also, swapping stations would need huge numbers of batteries to swap in.
Swapping car batteries still does not seem very practical, but progress is ongoing. Swapping fixed robots for mobile ones is guaranteed to happen. The future AGVs is huge.
The future AGVs is huge.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
Bye bye Longshoreman’s Union.
Can think of a nicer bunch of guys to say goodbye to.
Yes, autonomous factories will always make sense with the high cost of labor in a Welfare State…Swapping batteries has a lot of problems because all batteries deteriorate over time, and with use. Not to mention that there isn’t much benefit to it.
BillyBob Texas said:
So….an automated forklift takes a dead battery out of a vehicle – places it on a continuous loop charging belt that takes x hours to come back around to get switched back into the next vehicle…ad Infinitum. Hey Mac! Take the rest of the day OFF ! Ehh…make that the rest of your CAREER off !!
Macro pick and place robots assembling a stationary vehicle cannot proceed at the pace of multiple stationary robots simultaneously operating on hundreds of vehicles.
An Israeli company called “Better Place” had operational battery swap stations.
No incentive for OEM car manufactures to collaborate as it can limit design options and a great deal of capital needed to get it rolling.
Neat idea but for long distances think clean diesel/petrol and fuel cell.
Batteries weigh too much and battery swap a nightmare in terms of collaboration and logistics of installation of swap stations.
AGVS are old hat. Most new work is going into speeding them up safely and IDing location of humans in warehouse canyons so the system knows the location of all mobile assets – including walkers.
What is it that humans do if they do not make things?
It would seem by our modern economist’s math that our primary function is to consume, but that is only enabled by debt of money creation.
We know it is happening, we see it all around us. I suppose we are only going on faith that everything will work our just peachy given it has always managed to do so in the past.
I will still contend that this time IS different however as we have never seen this rate of change, which far outstrips our ability to adapt and we know that it is virtually ALL funded by debt, debt that from the looks of it was never intended to be repaid, only “serviced” by future generations and those lucky enough to survive.
We won’t even have to service this debt, although that doesn’t apply to us minnows. The grand debts are too big to service so why waste resources on servicing them? It’s only going to add to resources waste. You and me though, we go broke and the government [Federal] has to give us welfare, which it can easily do as it has “unlimited” resources. Welfare is the big industry of the future.
James Greenberg said:
Humans also care for one another and entertain each other. All is not manufacturing.
“What is it that humans do if they do not make things?”
The interesting word here being “things”. That word covers more than physical widgets.
We are in a world where “manufacturing” does not include building a web site. Or even building a computer operating system. Companies that make these things are not “manufacturing” in the Old English currently in use, much to the confusion of most observers.
Keep an eye out. Such confusion is all around us.
Self-worth and psychological health are intertwined with useful contributory activity.
Remove work/usefulness and the price paid is in decreased mental health.
We have a need to nurture. Work can help satisfy that need. Take it away and we will have an even sicker society.
useful…activity = kitesurfing
Work blows, and a bad boss or high stress/high performance environment, I am certain, could be extremely psychologically disruptive.
When I go out in the U.S. it amazes me how the dinner conversation at whatever table is next to me always leads to work. Watching someone on a first date talking all about operational work shit, that’s sad, and I’ve seen it plenty of times.
James Greenberg said:
Take away a man’s job – and you take away a large part of his purpose in life and his self-esteem. Work is the best therapy for most people. Couple that w/ his struggle to survive financially and mental health takes a huge hit.
Automation will rob jobs from millions of productive Americans. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.
Your conclusion that America will become an even sicker society through mass automation is spot on.
BillyBob Texas said:
Well….you cannot stop ‘progress’. You cannot stop innovation. You cannot stop automation (if it’s cheaper, better, more reliable, more efficient…and it will be for LOTS of stuff..).
So we better figute out how to cope…..like we always have in the past. THAT’s the Human Spirit.
It is impossible to stop real progress and it is equally impossible to stop politicians and the Fed from doing their best to ruin it
Sure they can stop progress.
Look at the billions that have been poured into finding a cure for cancer in the last 70 years. Not even close to a cure today. The last thing they want is a cure for cancer and the average lifespan increasing to 90. You think we have social security, MediCare and pension problems today? A cure for cancer would throw the financial system into a tailspin.
Same with the autonomous revolution. It would raise social havoc and create many more problems than it would solve.
You bet they can stop progress.
BillyBob Texas said:
…stopping progress… ?
Yeah, I guess they can….at least one company at a time. Just have our govmint throw a couple billion into it – it will immediately pay the top administrative people WAY too much, and the bottom producing people WAY too little – and pretty soon – BANKRUPT…..and OUR Billions disappear…….
Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..
Automation has been happening for hundreds of years. And we have more people working today than ever before. We pretty much automated our farms, and we have been doing the same thing to our factories. Transportation is next. But in 20 years we will have even more people working than today. Human ingenuity has no limits. The only thing is that the jobs available and the skills needed will change. That is the creative destruction that is happening.
So the number of people not in the workforce doesn’t matter?
The rate of change doesn’t matter?
Technology funded by massive, almost infinite debt, doesn’t matter?
The only thing that DOES MATTER is normalcy bias that tells us that everything is as it always has been….we invented the wheel and everything worked out….nothing to worry about?
Hi madas. What is NORMAL is human ingenuity and innovation. We see a problem and then figure out better and better ways to solve the problem. And yes, the job market changes as a result. That’s why you can’t get a job as a Pony Express rider today.
You have way too much faith in the human race.
Actually, I do, with a few exceptions. Thanks for noticing!
I am not a Luddite but I don’t think a lot of this is going to happen. Our society is over leveraged and this will not arrive before corporations will be fighting just to survive.
BillyBob Texas said:
Fighting? They will fight by dumping employees and buying robots that work 23 1/2 hrs a day ( 30 min a day for a lube and an oil-change). No pensions. No healthcare. No vacations. No nuthin!!
They will continue their wealth redistribution program, supporting the useless eaters, until autonomous technologies are in place so that those few “smart” people at the top…the OWNERS of this technology, do not need us or our consumption anymore.
I simply ask…..what exists in the world that does not provide purpose? For all those who believe in evolution, what has happened to the useless eaters of the past?
The progressive/socialist/collectivist/communist experiment has gone on for years and always has the same model, and it ultimately always includes elimination of its citizens.
So what you are saying is: If you have no purpose, you shouldn’t exist? I wonder how that goes over with the retired folks? Though I guess the US would save a bundle on Health Care and Social Security. Maybe you’re on to something there madashell!
It COULD happen, but only if Democrats, RINOs and unions don’t conspire to enact the American Jobs Protection Act.
No need for replaceable battery packs – just use a redox flow battery instead and use cheap and easy-to-use liquid handling equipment. http://www.idtechex.com/research/articles/flow-batteries-in-cars-00010075.asp
How cheap does something need to be if you have NO JOB?
I remember in the 60’s when the “experts” told us autonomous this and that were just around the corner. 50 years later it still hasn’t come to fruition. Talk is cheap. I’ll believe the new autonomous revolution when I see it. Quite frankly, I don’t expect it in my lifetime and if you’re over 50 in all likelihood you won’t see it in yours either for a variety of valid reasons related to unintended consequences.
A difference between the ’60s and now is that then there was no defined engineering path to “autonomous”. Autonomous was a long term vision, at best. No one worked directly on “free range computers” at the time. Computers needed extremely well defined, predictable input.
Such is no longer the case.
Or, more exactly, now (not then) it just takes a lot of work – not rocket science – just scheduled work, to turn many, many poorly defined, unpredictable input classes in to well-defined-predicable input. That work hasn’t been done yet in most known cases. But it’s now being done. That’s new.
Here’s the thing: Usually hype is just hype. It’s hard to distinguish a new hyped thing from the real deal. Remember the mid ’90’s when Win95 and Mosaic/Netscape/email came out? Remember the hype shortly thereafter? Look back at your records (not your memory). Did you call the Internet as hype or the real deal? If the former, learn from what you did wrong. If the latter, how did you know?
You appear to be a ‘hope & change’ advocate.
Wake me up when this autonomous revolution is rolled out and in full operation.
If you’re over 50 – chances of that happening in your lifetime are slim and none.
Better to concentrate on how to salvage Illinois rather than how to build an autonomous fork lift or pallet truck.
Think of all the fork lift and pallet truck drivers who would be thrown out of work in Illinois and end up on the public dole – only aggravating an already desperate situation.
Switched to driving particularly nasty hazmat because I figure it won’t ever be automated. Don’t think the public would stand for computer driven sulfuric acid loads. At least not in the next 20 years or so.
The security clearance required means if you’ve got a violent history or any past with drugs you’re not my competition, which is many, many drivers.
Great thinking put into action. Nice one!
Your job is safe enough. Frankly, so many of these cheer leaders for automation on the roads have so little understanding of transportation. They like to think of it in the abstract and few if any have driven more the fifty thousand miles in one year, that mostly being commute traffic in a four wheeled vehicle. You and I know how road surface conditions can vary, how weather and traffic conditions can affect surface conditions, and we have both seen how one vehicle can cause massive damage on the road. I will agree that the ordinary regulated freight can become partially automated, that is, point to point on the interstate system. But that amount of construction and money needed to fully automate is beyond any foreseeable horizon. Specialized trucking, meaning Hazmat and flatbed will never be automated, too many variables. I’ve pulled quite a fee over sized and heavy haul loads, not as easy as it looks. As for taking steel beams to a downtown city site for building, look out brother. A day cab driver has the advantage of knowing that city far better than I, but guess what, load has got to be delivered. That is just the thing, day cab drivers aren’t going out or work anytime soon, even with this great truck automation revolution.
BillyBob Texas said:
Be careful! But sounds like you’ve got yourself into a pretty restrictive competition job. Good on ya!