General Motors Connects A Quarter Of Its Robot Workforce To The Internet

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The car giant uses cloud-based data analytics to prevent disruption to the robotic assembly line

Automotive giant General Motors has connected around a quarter of its robot factory workforce to the Internet, harnessing the power of data analytics to carry out preventative maintenance.

Bloomberg reported that General Motors has a factory workforce of 30,000 robots, and by connecting around 7,500 of them to external cloud-based servers it has avoided 100 percent of potential failures by analysing data flowing from the robots as they go about their work on a automotive assembly line.

Given a faulty robot can cause disruption to an assembly line, and that it takes up to eight hours to replace a malfunctioning unit, the ability to predict and prevent problems before they happen has allowed General Motors to keep its assembly lines ticking along smoothly.

Robots and the IoT

Robots making a carConnecting the robots to the cloud is a prime example of how the Internet of Things (IoT) can be used in industrial situations to ensure operations are made more efficient, productive and avoid unexpected downtime.

“If we can avoid a disruption in our manufacturing, we can save ourselves a significant amount of money,” said General Motors’ director of global automation, Mark Franks, at an International Federation of Robotics roundtable. “It’s a pretty good payback.”

While the use of robots in the automotive manufacturing world is nothing new, the goal of achieving maximum uptime of the automated workers is something that car companies pursue. And it is the IoT and the ability to harness cloud analytics that pave the way to that goal.

Often dubbed Industry 4.0, the use of more connected tech and data in the enterprise and industrial world is becoming more prevalent, especially with companies undergoing digital transformation strategies to inject cutting-edge tech and the cloud into their operations in a fashion that suit their business.

As such, it is no surprise that companies such as Fujitsu are looking to provide systems and products, from network connectivity to artificial intelligence, to companies pursuing a digital transformation doctrine.

But robotics and the IoT in the automotive world are not just things for the factories, rather both underpin the foundational technology that enables the development of driverless cars.

However, as with connecting anything – smart or dumb – to the Internet there comes an inherent risk of cyber attacks if security is left as an afterthought, though that does not look like its going to slowdown General Motors’ technology adoption.

“The amount of technology coming at us in the next five years is probably more than we’ve seen in the last 50,” said Franks.

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