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  • How to Manage Expectations During a Robot Deployment

    Worker expectations can ruin a robot deployment. But, you can ensure success by understanding how their opinions will change during the 3 stages of robot deployment.

    In the beginning, workers are often uncertain about robots. They worry that their jobs are in danger. They believe that they do not have enough expertise to operate a robot. They fear that management won't listen to their concerns.

    But, over time, their perception of the robot changes.

    Months later, the team are often enthusiastic about the robot. They are even keen to get started on the next robot deployment!

    How can you manage the expectations of your team in the early stages? How can you ensure that the robot deployment will be a success? Thankfully, researchers have studied how worker expectations change during a robot deployment.


    How to describe the robot deployment process

    There are various ways you could describe the stages of a robot deployment.

    The Lean Robotics framework, for example, splits deployment into 3 phases (Design, Integrate and Operate). These focus on the technical phases of the deployment process. However, there is another process you could focus on. The process of change that your team experiences as they get used to working with a robot. If you understand this process, you can be proactive and get your team on board right from the start.

    At each stage of deployment, the team's perception of the robot will change. The key to success is to understand each stage and prepare to manage the team's expectations.


    How to manage expectations in the 3 stages of robot deployment

    A few years ago, researchers from the University of Salzburg conducted a study titled Deploying Robots in a Production Environment: A Study on Temporal Transitions of Workers’ Experiences. It involved interviewing 10 workers about a robot deployment in a semiconductor factory.

    The research identified three stages of robot deployment. These don't necessarily align with the three phases of lean robotics, but they might.

    2F85-Wrist-Camera-Machine-Tending-Walt-Machine-61At each stage of deployment, the team's perception of the robot will change. The key to success is to understand each stage and prepare to manage the team's expectations.


    Stage 1: Expectations before robot deployment

    This first stage is vital for the success of your robot deployment. If you fail to address your team's concerns at this stage, you will have an uphill struggle for the entire robot deployment.

    The researchers identified 7 categories of expectations, which we discussed in the article Why Robots Fail to Meet User Expectations.

    The overriding issue at this stage is "uncertainty." People who have never used a robot don't know what to expect. They are unsure whether they should be skeptical of it or whether to be hopeful of the benefits it could bring.

    The key to success at this stage is communication. Clearly communicate to the whole team how the robot deployment will be carried out. Answer people's questions and ensure that everyone gets the same information.


    Stage 2: Familiarization as a process

    During this stage, the team becomes more accustomed to having a robot in the workplace. You can help to improve this familiarity by providing training.

    The researchers identified four experiences that workers have during this stage:

    1. Acquirement of basic knowledge — Basic on-site training gives workers the ability to solve minor problems with the robot. This improves both the team's familiarity and skills with the robot. However, basic training is sometimes not always enough. Sometimes people need more in-depth training.
    2. Trial and error — Not all learning is formal. Often, operators will become more familiar with the robot simply by trying out things with it and seeing the results.
    3. Informal transfer of knowledge — More experienced operators will pass on knowledge to other members of the team. Often, this transfer of knowledge is beneficial for the deployment (e.g. when a team member passes on techniques for using the robot). Other times, it can harm the deployment (e.g. when rumors spread).
    4. Troubleshooting — Most of the interactions that people have with the robot occur when they are trying to solve problems. Workers should be given enough training that they feel capable of solving such problems.

    The key to success at this stage is to provide adequate training. During the research interviews, it became clear that a lack of training can really hurt the deployment. Workers who aren't given enough training quickly start to feel powerless and resent the robot.


    Stage 3: Consequences of working with the robot

    The final stage happens when the team members are used to the robot. They have adapted to their changed work routines and their opinions of the robot have started to change.

    The researchers identified five experiences that workers have during this stage:

    1. Shift in social environment — Adding robots to a business often leads to companies hiring new members of staff. Sometimes robot technicians are hired, sometimes other workers are hired to deal with the increased capacity caused by the robot. These new hires can lead to changes in the social environment in the business.
    2. Shift in opinion — Workers often change their opinion of the robot once they see that their initial skepticism was unjustified. They now understand the realities of using a robot and they no longer over or underestimate robot's capabilities.
    3. Complexity of processes — Processes which use the robot tend to be more complex than manual processes. Workers then have to adapt to this change in complexity.
    4. Adaption of workers to the robots — As people become familiar with the robot they change their ways of working to accommodate its idiosyncrasies (e.g. you have to put items slightly closer to the robot or it won't detect them).
    5. Affective reactions (non-involvement, resignation) — Not everyone ends up happy with the robot after deployment. Those who resisted the robot in the beginning and felt left out of the decision making process often end up unhappily resigned to its presence in the business. The best way to avoid this is to involve people from the start.

    The key to success at this stage is to maintain the communication and training that you started in the previous stages. When people feel involved, they will actively help to make sure that the robot stays a success.


    How to ensure the success of a robot deployment

    People take time to adapt when new technologies are introduced to the workplace. Often, the best way to approach these introductions is to be open, communicative and involve everyone from the beginning.

    Make sure to get yourself a copy of the lean robotics book which includes a strategy for getting the whole workforce on board with the robot right from the start.

    Read the full Assa Abloy case study

    Read more »
  • What's New in Robotics This Week?  21.09.18

    -Manufacturing  & cobot roundup 
    -ABB, UR, ROSIN ++
    -Snake-inspired surgical bot 
    -Jellybot 'Guardians of the Ocean'?
    -Five vids for Friday 
    -And much more! 


    Manufacturing & cobot roundup

    Robotics will create many millions more jobs than it displaces, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum.  The Swiss think tank estimates that 75 million jobs will be displaced globally by 2022 while 133 million new jobs will be created. (H/T BBC)

    The Robot People released video showing a UR3 cobot trained to automatically load, run and test product on Trotec’s SpeedMarker... 




    ABB launched its ABB Ability Voices of Innovation webcast with a fascinating conversation on automation between ABB’s Guido Jouret and Accenture’s Eric Schaeffer, who discussed how governments and companies can prepare themselves for participation in the manufacturing revolution.   

    Initiated to help consolidate European expertise in advanced manufacturing, the European Union's 'Robotics Open-Source Software for Industry' (ROSIN) project has three main aims: to ensure industrial-grade software quality, promote new business-relevant applications, and support educational activities for students and industry professionals. 

    ftp_blog_news3-3-950x480ROSIN brings commercial and academic expertise together.  Credit: ROSIN.  

    The project's first set of results was released this week and includes open-source ROS drivers for industrial hardware and generic ROS frameworks for both industrial apps and model-based tooling.  (H/T Robohub

    A cobot from Universal Robots cut production time by 9 hours at California-based dental products and services specialists Glidewell Laboratories... 




    In a thought-provoking piece for Asian Robotics Review, Tom Green (inspired in part by a chat with Universal Robots founder  Esben Østergaard) wondered about the role AI could play in future industrial robot design and what new technologies might emerge once advanced AI turns its attention to robotics.   (I recommend wearing 5D-printed Virtual Protective Smart Dust Quantum Liquid Metal Safety Gear, for this one.) 

    The third part of Slashdot's Podcast Series came out this week.   Panasonic's Jim Dempsey and Slashdot's Michael Krieger explored the topic of human-robot collaboration in the warehouse...




     Robots are set to become smarter, more flexible and "increasingly tailor-made to meet new demand,” according to Per Vegard Nerseth, managing director of ABB's Business Unit Robotics, quoted in Shine:

    “Nowadays, companies of smaller scales also need robotics for their manufacturing, so our portfolio is expanding to cover smaller robots that occupy less space and are easier to manage,” Nerseth said, adding that ABB will customize robots for companies in different industries.

    KUKA released video showing some of its palletizing robots helping out at Fleischwerke E. Zimmermann GmbH & Co. KG, a Bavarian sausage maker...



     A South China Morning Post report explored "how Beijing's ambitious industrial plan aims to break China’s reliance on foreign technology and pull its hi-tech industries up to Western levels."  (It's the second report in a graphics-rich series that's well worth checking out.) 

    One of Omron's mobile robots was filmed helping out in a Norwegian smart factory... 



    In other reading: 

    • Konica Minolta and cobot maker Mobile Industrial Robots partner up in Australia  (T&L News
    • How China aims to dominate the world of robotics  (SCMP
    • The World Has Embraced Robots, Here’s Why the U.S. Should Too (Industrial Distribution
    • ‘Cobots’ and humans can work alongside each other (MySanAntonio
    • Pepper-picking robot demonstrates its skills in greenhouse labour automation (PhysOrg)



     A group of researchers has optimized the design of snake-like surgical robots. The multi-tool 'i2 Snake' (Intuitive Imaging Sensing Navigated and Kinematically Enhanced) bot uses a new 'rolling-joint' design, which is a bio-inspired mechanism that consists of two circular surfaces rolling against each other.  This joint is found in many species, including humans, in parts such as the knee. (H/T ResearchGate


    The researchers used 3D printing to optimize the design.  Credit: ResearchGate 

    The future global success of AI will depend heavily on international cooperation, China’s vice premier, Liu He, told attendees at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai.  Via MIT Technology Review

    “We’re hoping that all countries, as members of the global village, will be inclusive and support each other so that we can respond to the double-edged-sword effect of new technologies,” He said through a translator. “AI represents a new era. Cross-national and cross-discipline cooperation is inevitable.”

    Scientists have created a soft bot inspired by jellyfish to research fragile underwater environments.  The bots, which are propelled by hydraulic-powered tentacles, are already able to swim through openings narrower than their soft bodies. 


    The robot's design is based on the shape of the larval stage moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita). Credit: Florida Atlantic University.  

    The team hopes that future versions of the robot will be "guardians of the oceans" able to explore coral reefs without causing any damage.  (H/T BT

    Moxi, a nurse's assistant bot from Diligent Robotics made its debut this week in a series of pilot programs at several Texas hospitals.  The robot has a hand fitted with a Robotiq gripper that enables it to grasp objects.  Moxi can also store medical supplies and transport them to medical staff.  (H/T DigitalTrends

     moxi-robot-1-700x467-c (1)

    Moxi is designed to assist, rather than replace, nurses.  Credit: Diligent Robotics. 

    In other reading: 

    • Do We Really Need Robot Farmers? (JSTOR Daily
    • Do robots have rights? Here’s what 10 people and 1 robot have to say (Create)
    • African experiments with drone technologies could leapfrog decades of infrastructure neglect (TechCrunch)
    • Startup inks ‘world’s largest deal’ for driverless grocery deliveries  (Digital Trends)
    • How Zipline Helps Remote Regions Get Blood From a Drone (Wired)

    I'll be back next week with the latest cobot and robot news.  Until then... 

    Five vids for Friday

    1.  Guinness World Records has declared the 9'2" x 16'6", six-legged 'Mantis' to be the world's largest rideable hexapod robot.  Built by British engineer Matt Denton, Mantis can be operated by a driver in its cockpit or via remote control, weighs in at 4,188 pounds and has a top speed of .6 mph.  




     2.  Scientists have developed a flexible robotic 'skin' that can be wrapped around inanimate objects, enabling them to move.  The "flexible cuffs" --which could be used in space missions-- consist of electronic air valves encased in fabric/elastic slips that squeeze points on an object’s surface, thereby allowing for specific, controlled movements. (H/T Science Robotics





     3.  Engineers at BMW have created the firm's first self-driving motorbike.  The prototype vehicle won't be appearing in stores though, as it was developed to assist in the creation of driver assistance tools.  (H/T engadget)




    4.  Spectacular video released this week shows raw footage of a robot successfully capturing a satellite.  The RemoveDebris experiment, led by the UK's University of Surrey involved the launch of a one metre cube satellite from the ISS and the deployment of a net to capture it.  Next, a drag sail will be used to drag the satellite into earth's atmosphere where it will meet its fiery demise.  (H/T QZ





     5.  Jeanine Reutemann from the Centre for Innovation at the Leiden University in The Hague, The Netherlands, believes we need to move from fear-based sci-fi visions of the future to form "a more objective view of where future technologies will take us." 






    Read more »
  • What's New In Robotics This Week? - 14.09.2018

    -UR's 25,000th Cobot!
    -The ROBOTT-NET project
    -NASA sensing Opportunity?  
    -GRAB Lab's bio-inspired gripper
    -Robot Trousers
    -Five vids for Friday
    -And much more!  

    Manufacturing & cobot roundup

    Cobot pioneer Universal Robots celebrated its 25,000th cobot sold with a unique Gold Edition Cobot at the IMTS trade show in Chicago.  Since Universal Robots launched in 2008, the company has maintained its lead over competitors and currently holds an estimated 60% of the global cobot market. 

    OL1809_UniversalPic: Universal Robots' 25,000th cobot sale was to Kay Manufacturing, a small precision machining company headquartered in Calumet City outside Chicago. 

    Via Advanced Manufacturing:

    In 2017, Universal Robots saw 72% growth and are targeting 50% growth in 2018. The first half of 2018 has seen revenue of $105 million, while growing their workforce by 150 people during the same time. Long term, according to von Hollen, is to maintain greater than 50% market share within the cobot category. 

    ZDNet has more on this story from "the fastest growing segment of industrial automation."

    In what was a busy week for Universal Robots, the company also launched its 'Application Builder' --a tool designed to "ease robotic cell configuration and deployment while raising robot literacy and capabilities."  

    Techman Robot launched its TM12 and TM14 cobots at IMTS.  The new cobots have a payload capacity of 12kg and 14kg and a working area of 1100mm and 1300mm, respectively. 

    Yaskawa Motoman released video showcasing its new HC10 cobot...




    One of AUBO's cobots was filmed doing some spray work...




    Europe's ROBOTT-NET project brings experts from countries across Europe together to offer "highly qualified consulting services at no cost to companies that either want to use robot technology in their production or want to develop new robot technology to sell."  The project kicked off two years ago and Robohub ran an in-depth update about the work done so far, from robotic nurses' assistants and construction bots to automated waste sorting solutions. 




    In other cobot & manufacturing news...



    Like something straight out of a Wallace and Gromit movie...


    ...a team of British researchers has created a pair of robotic trousers, albeit ones with a serious purpose: helping people with functional disabilities and those with mobility problems in old age to get around. 

    _103397642_trousersPic:  The left side shows a stiffening "cuff" designed to support the knee, the right shows artificial muscles that can raise a robotic leg. Credit: University of Bristol

    Via the BBC:

    "The health service wants this. It is really good at realising that if you are going to interact with the human body, you probably want something that is soft... rather that one of these scary rigid exoskeletons," [said Prof Rossiter, from the University of Bristol].  The next phase of the team's work is going to involve working with clinicians, charities and prosthetic device companies.

    Yale's GRAB Lab revealed a gripper design that emulates the way humans manipulate objects in a single hand by varying the amount of friction between the robotic 'hand' and the object it is holding. 

    MzEyOTgzMgPic: The yellow region is deformable, while the white plastic area provides a rigid physical interface.  Credit: Yale GRAB Lab

    Via IEEE Spectrum:

    Pure in-hand manipulation is cool, of course, but in a very practical sense, what’s important here is the objective: making it possible for robots to affordably and reliably do useful things in the real world, especially when it comes to things like prosthetics.

    See the system in action here

    NASA began a 45-day active-listening period in the hope of reconnecting with the robot rover Opportunity after three months of silence and as the Red Planet's dust storms start to wane.  Throughout this period, NASA engineers will "nudge the spacecraft several times a day, rather than the three times a week that had been the procedure," reported.

    Robot social engineering --the intersection of human-robot interaction, security and privacy-- could see robots being used to extract personal information from humans.  Brittany "Straithe" Postnikoff, a graduate researcher at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, is a leading expert on this possible threat.  TechTarget ran an interview with Postnikoff this week, that's well worth a read.

    Jeff Hancock, PhD, Stanford University, spoke on the topic of "social robots and deception" this week too... 




    I'll be back next week with the latest robotics news.  (Unless I'm deceived by a robot along the way, of course!)  Until then...

    Five vids for Friday

    1.  Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed a system that enables robots to inspect random objects and understand them sufficiently to accomplish specific tasks --all without ever having seen the objects before. (H/T Wired, Robohub)



    2.  During NASA's recent celebrations to mark the agency's 60th anniversary, an expert panel looked back at "how far NASA's robotic exploration has come, and consider where we might be headed."  Video of their fascinating discussion went online this week.  




    3.  Experts at the Vienna University of Technology have trained an industrial robot arm to create string art based on digital photographs.  (H/T TechXplore)




    4.  The human-size, bipedal Mercury bot at the University of Texas' Human Centered Robotics Lab endured a little punishment this week as roboticists tested how well Mercury could maintain balance and gait in a cluttered public space.  And by 'cluttered,' I mean 'people throwing balls at you.'   (H/T University of Texas)




    5.  Tom Scott reported on the Soft Car 360 (aka Global Vehicle Target) -"the new standard for testing autonomous driving and crash test systems."




    Start production faster with Lean Robotics 

    Read more »

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