Whether you like it or not, you should brace yourself for Industry 5.0. The term refers to people working alongside robots and smart machines. If that definition brought to mind the image of Will Smith battling evil robots in the movie “I, Robot,” here are a few things you need to know about Industry 5.0.
While science fiction is full of bad machines trying to kill humans or take over the world, in reality, robotics is practical. Think Roomba, the vacuum cleaner, and LoweBot, the robot that helps find or scan products in Lowe’s home improvement stores.
Industry 5.0 is about robots making humans work better and faster. It refers to the necessary interaction between people and machines. In the manufacturing world, robots usually perform monotonous work, such as welding and painting in car factories and loading and unloading heavy materials in warehouses.
The Danish company Universal Robots is the first to manufacture industrial robots that literally work alongside humans. Whereas most industrial robots work behind safety caging, the company’s robots were first deployed alongside people in 2008 (1).
To understand Industry 5.0, here are three things you need to remember.
#1 Industry 5.0 is about humans, not robots.
Robots are designed to help humans and make our lives better. Universal Robots uses the term “cobots” for collaborative robots to emphasize the importance of people in robotic technology.
“Industry 5.0 will make the factory a place where creative people can come and work, to create a more personalized and human experience for workers and their customers,” said Esben Østergaard, Universal Robots chief technology officer and co-founder, in an article published on Enterprise IoT Insights (2).
He thinks consumers will increasingly demand craftsmanship and personalization of products. Through automation and cobots, the manufacturing process can be streamlined to allow humans to create something special and unique. The use of robots will actually bring back the human factor to manufacturing, according to Østergaard.
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#2 Industry 5.0 is meant to optimize human efficiency and productivity.
Industry 4.0 is about the interconnectedness of machines and systems for optimal performance. Industry 5.0 takes such efficiency and productivity further by honing the interaction between humans and machines.
Rogers Corporation touts its ability to integrate robots into the manufacturing process to deliver high quality products, as shown by video clips on its website. The Arizona-based company manufactures specialty materials used in different consumer and electronic products.
“Industry 5.0 recognizes that man and machine must be interconnected to meet the manufacturing complexity of the future in dealing with increasing customization through an optimized robotized manufacturing process,” said Marc Beulque, vice president of global operations at Rogers (3).
A combined human and robot workforce will call for a new executive role, the chief robotics officer (CRO), who will be responsible for planning and managing all activities related to robotics and intelligent operational systems. A report by Myria Research forecasted that by 2025, more than 60 percent of manufacturing, logistics and supply chain, agri-farming, and the oil, gas and mining sectors will have CROs (4).
#3 Industry 5.0 is inevitable.
When it comes to technology, there’s no turning back. The European Economic Social Committee (EESC) said it best: “The proliferation of robotic automation is inevitable.”
The committee, a European Union (EU) consultative body, acknowledged that Europe lagged behind the United States and China in artificial intelligence, and called for acceleration of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics development in the region. “The EU should embrace digitalisation wholeheartedly for the sake of consumers, manufacturers, and employees alike,” it said (5).
While it’s impossible to ignore the existence of Industry 5.0, there are fundamental questions that manufacturers and policymakers need to address in the near future. In a research paper, academics questioned the impact of “extreme automation.”
“Highly integrated systems are vulnerable to systemic risks such as total network collapse,” according to the paper. “Extreme connectivity creates new social and political structures. If left unchecked, they might lead to authoritarian governance.” (6)
While manufacturers mull over those possibilities, they must also plan, prepare and equip themselves with the right knowledge and solutions to welcome the inevitable. The question is not whether the manufacturing industry would benefit from robotics, but how it should leverage the technology.
(1) “The First Cobots Sold,” the Universal Robots website.
(2) “Fine watches, craft beer and the psychology of Industry 5.0,” Enterprise IoT Insights, April 27, 2018.
(3) Manufacturing Day: The Future of Manufacturing, Oct. 2, 2018, Rogers Corp. website.
(4) “The Chief Robotics Officer: Myria Research Scenario,” published Jan. 15, 2015.
(5) “Artificial Intelligence and Robotics: Inevitable and Full of Opportunities,” EESC, March 16, 2018.
(6) “Birth of Industry 5.0: Making Sense of Big Data with Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Next-Generation Technology Policy,” by Ozdmir V. and Hekim N., U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
Cindy Fazzi writes about the life science industry and other regulated environments for MasterControl. She has worked as a journalist in three countries. Her two decades of experience as a news reporter, writer, and editor includes working for the Associated Press in Ohio and New York City. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State University.