Humans and Robots on the Factory Floor: The Future of Quality Manufacturing


Amazingly cool, interactive robots working alongside human companions in the manufacturing environment of the future may seem a little too sci-fi right now. But at the exponential speed of today’s technological developments, R2-D2 and C-3PO may be here faster than the Millennium Falcon’s record-setting Kessel Run through hyperspace.

We see it in the new technological advances impacting the shop floor of the present: data analytics, digital connectivity, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), etc. With Industry 4.0 as the new gold standard, smart manufacturing is now a reality due to a digital transformation in which data management is automated and integrated within networked systems and embedded in manufacturing processes. That translates to greater levels of quality and flexibility, a reduction in errors and real-time access to data records to expedite the entire production process for manufacturers.

Industry 4.0 means that managers and the C-suite can get a snapshot at any point in the product life cycle of batch records, quality data, production analytics and any other metrics that impact ROI. Sounds pretty great, right? So, what does the future hold that Industry 4.0 doesn’t provide?

The Fifth Wave

The so-called fifth Industrial Revolution takes it a step further as the heightened levels of quality, connectivity and efficiency you get from Industry 4.0 and new cutting-edge technologies will give manufacturers the ability to allow consumers to customize and personalize products and production.

What will that look like? Currently, Type 1 diabetes patients use medical devices that draw blood and measures glucose levels, which then ‘talks’ to a second device that delivers insulin into the blood. But Industry 5.0 raises individual diabetes management to a whole new level. Rather than being one size fits all, as insulin pumps are today, the glucometer/insulin device of the future will connect to an app that follows an individual’s lifestyle and routine, injecting insulin as needed, and allowing personalized diabetes control that is truly lifechanging.

But what about those pesky humans we discussed earlier? Won’t the robots of the future factories replace them? Not even. One of the beauties of Industry 5.0 is that not only will AI machines not replace workers, but robots will fill more complementary roles to their human counterparts such as repetitive, manual and time-consuming tasks. Meanwhile, bipedal, carbon-based employees will be freed up to tackle the work that humans do best, including more meaningful process-critical tasks that require thought, nuance and creativity.

“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. (2)

Manufacturing professionals can rest assured that the droids of the future shop floor are not there to take their jobs but to make their jobs and lives easier within a more productive and efficient factory workspace.

Back to the Future

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Many manufacturing and life sciences organizations are still relying on paper-based or hybrid data and document management systems to support their quality management programs. The digital transformation is at their doorstep, and to join the world of Industry 4.0, they must also upgrade their quality processes.

Quality 4.0, a subset of Industry 4.0, is the premise that for manufacturers to realize greater efficiencies and high levels of quality management on the shop floor, there must be digital connectivity between disparate data systems. In other words, smart manufacturing principles and systems will provide greater ROI and help get products to customers sooner and on demand. Digital solutions provide manufacturing managers and the C-suite with the data analytics, collaboration, scalability, organizational culture and leadership to improve compliance, reduce quality events and fully realize the benefits of lean manufacturing.

Similarly, Industry 4.0 focuses on the concept that best practice for manufacturers is not to get rid of its human employees but rather to empower them to overcome quality challenges and reallocate their talent and skillsets in more productive and career-oriented ways. So while Industry 4.0 offers “greater opportunities for people, machines and data to connect,” it’s actually more about people than it is digital tools.

“The strategy should identify how the technology advances strategic objectives, and results in improved technological, human, and process capabilities,” according to an LNS Research e-book on Quality 4.0. (3) “It should connect workers, management, business systems, customers, suppliers, and machines in new and profitable ways.”


In summation, here are a few key points for manufacturing and life sciences executives and managers to consider:

  • Robots and AI will increasingly be a critical part of the manufacturing processes.
  • Industry 5.0 is only conceptual at this point but will embrace the human factor. Robots will complement the roles of workers rather than replace them.
  • Organizations will need to adopt an Industry 4.0 strategy that embodies Quality 4.0 principles to fully join the digital transformation.
  • The implementation of digital quality management and enterprise solutions will help organizations successfully navigate the digital transformation and realize the benefits of being a Quality 4.0 manufacturer.


  2. “Fine watches, craft beer and the psychology of Industry 5.0,” Enterprise IoT Insights, April 27, 2018.
  3. LNS Research e-book “Quality 4.0: Get Educated, Get Involved, and Build a Successful Strategy,” September 2017.


Mike Rigert is a content marketing specialist at MasterControl Inc.’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. A native of the Chicago area, he has nearly a decade and a half of experience creating journalism and marketing content for the news media, public safety and higher education. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brigham Young University.

Free Resource

The Never-Normal Future of Manufacturing

Enjoying this blog? Learn More.

The Never-Normal Future of Manufacturing

Download Now
[ { "key": "fid#1", "value": ["GxP Lifeline Blog"] } ]