COVID-19, Industry and Production
Ömer Eren, General Manager at Altınay Robot Technologies
The most important concept brought by the COVID-19 pandemic is the “future”
We went through a period where each of us was trapped in our private lives and circles. And this increased questions about what would happen in the future. People started thinking about the future more than ever. There was a difference, though… People were looking through their own windows… While trying to figure out life in line with our own needs, we think about what external factors will be, how our environment will be shaped, and what the future will hold for us. From this point of view, we can say that the most important concept brought by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was the “future”.
These Environments Hold Opportunities
Now, let’s look at it from the industry and production sides. How did we understand it? How should we? How should we shape our businesses and decisions? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to these questions. Now, all stakeholders try to understand and judge the situation better and produce various predictions for the future. It is a fact that such environments contain risks and uncertainties as well as opportunities. They open up play areas for us, bringing flexibility. After remembering that the decisions made at this stage will affect our future, it will be useful to evaluate the issue together with the past, present, and future.
The Development Story of the Industry
The period where we tried to position, make sense of the future was called Industry 4.0, also known as the 4th Industrial Revolution. And what happened until the 4th Industrial Revolution? The first Industrial Revolution was the outcome of the newly discovered machines. Machines that supported manpower and worked with higher steam power… Then, in the 1900s, consecutive methods were developed to pave the way for higher-volume production, and the basis of today’s production lines was laid. In the 1970s, the automation era, aka the 3rd Industrial Revolution took place. With programmable and robotic systems, the 2nd Industrial Revolution was evolved into modern production systems. Especially in the 1990s, robots started to become the main components of production and quickly spread from automotive to the general industry. The number of robots increased day by day and they turned into data to be followed.
The world fantasised about dark and self-operating factories with the 3rd Industrial Revolution and its most important part, robots. It was very normal. Because robots were multidisciplinary and complex structures and encouraged engineers to move forward. Following the applications developed with robots in the industry, and with the developments in the field of computers and informatics, the focus was on where production would be carried. New technologies, updated materials, fast communication, software, more capable robots, and increasing robot-based applications… They all laid the foundations for the new Industrial Revolution. With production highly based on robots and automation, the bundle of information about it consisting of all these sub-equipment was practically obtained. Based on this, the concept of automatically managing systems on which the new industry is based was created. We started to call this objective and the environment around it as Industry 4.0. The associated concepts that we talk about today came around: big data, internet of things, machine learning, artificial intelligence, digital twins, and simulation.
Working environments can now be perceived in more detail with equipment in production lines and the advanced sensors they contain. The data obtained from all robots and connected equipment in the production are transferred into a cloud environment. Then, the data is processed with highly skilled algorithms developed in this environment, and results are obtained in line with the analysis of production, instant follow-up, or maintenance predictions.
How Are Things for Turkey?
How were things for Turkey? Where is our country in this environment? To give an answer to these questions, we need to be aware of our own country’s dynamics and make the following assumption. The rate of robotization in Turkey is still very low compared to other countries. In parallel to that, it was very difficult for us to spread the concepts of industry, production environment, robots, and their place in the production around laypeople. We couldn’t make fast and correct decisions in robot investments. Talking about the Industry 4.0, we need to work really hard as a country and take the developments in the world seriously.
We should remember that the work we do in robot investments includes powerful engineering. We must make the most suitable choices and find the best solutions that include them. Thus, we can take solid steps with more reliable data. When we ignore the technique of the subject and end up simply adding robots to the production, we face either frustration or inefficiency. And aren’t we making these investments to increase our productivity?
We Need to Make Ideas Real
All businesses make plans for the future. But we need to spend more time making better plans. In doing so, it will be very valuable to make rational decisions regarding the need and the future of the sector not only by evaluating the trendy items and concepts of the day but also by looking at all of the production and plans. If necessary, we can work with powerful engineering companies that can investigate all aspects of the business here and bring you fast and accurate advantages. We must remember this: First we will have ideas, we will contemplate. If we can handle the beginning of the work, we will face the more difficult side of it. Ideas are of extreme value, but what matters is making them real. If we still ask, “Where are we in the industry?”, this question should tell us something.
We Must Know the Developments in The World
Our businesses need to follow their materials and products, conduct researches and have engineering analyses as well as their productions. Companies need to be aware of the developments in the world and have a high level of awareness in the direction of products. We must be careful about the projects of the production technologies. Because a company and a system consist of many different criteria. If one of these is missing, productivity drops significantly, and the expected results cannot be achieved. In a period where production takes and still will take the first place, robotization and automation levels arise as the production volumes and needs increase. High-volume production requires successful line setups. However, in order to eliminate the risks caused by speed and avoid quality losses, we need very detailed work.
All these factors can lead to different scenarios for a successful investment. The investment is ready, but the project-plan may not be. Or, even with a good plan and project, we may not find a good team. To achieve success, all of these need to be increased to a certain level separately. Like I said, plans should be made through a team with high awareness in terms of product and production techniques. Another thing to worry about is to maintain our flexibility. As we go through the times when we test these changes and sudden breaks, we will see the value of agility. We will need openness, teams, and partners that can revise our plans by adapting to changes or trends as quickly as possible. And interpreting technology with experts will be beneficial for everyone in this.
The COVID-19 pandemic shook us all by surprise, accelerated some things but didn’t change our environment. We must proceed very fast on the way to digitalisation. And like I said earlier, it is a little difficult for us to achieve that. Because we need to coordinate more than one revolution together. We must plan our production by internalizing robots, automation applications, and newly emerging concepts. We need to consider the use of artificial intelligence and smart factory concepts.
Now, let’s briefly go over a few important concepts and evaluate their effects on product and competition. As you know, by simplifying the concepts of artificial intelligence and machine learning, we aim for people to make the right decisions and work efficiently. At this point, we can present machines or systems with artificial intelligence as smart systems that can optimize and reconstruct their own performance. Today, artificial intelligence is creating a new model in production. Total network production, gathering/accumulating big data from production subsystems with robots, and analysing billions of data will take us to our common objective, the trinity of better, faster, and more accurate. Based on this, smart factories are turning into structures that can operate efficiently and in smaller volumes, with lower human impact, perceive its environment more quickly and in detail, and be flexible and manage its work even with certain limits. Concepts of the internet of things, simulations, and digital twins will take us from high automation to hyper automation.
What We Need to Do
The pandemic brought all these issues more clearly and faster. In order to seize advantages in these developments and avoid threats, we must be cautious in every step we take. Instead of turning to trends brought by the pandemic, we must focus on this question: “How can we build more robust, agile, competitive, and sustainable production bases in places that we need to be?” In this respect, we must speed up our internal plans, prepare our teams for the technology, raise awareness, and increase our cooperation with engineering companies to interpret this technology together. This way, we can carry the industry and production of our country through the division of labour. A successful future with plans and constructs suitable for today is not very far.