Home Bots & Business Nicole Clement (Comau) Addresses Future of Robotics at ERF

Nicole Clement (Comau) Addresses Future of Robotics at ERF

by Marco van der Hoeven

In her keynote at the European Robotics Forum (ERF), Nicole Clement, Chief Business Unit Leader for Advanced Automation Solutions at Comau, outlined the evolving landscape of industrial automation and the future of robotics. Clement emphasized the shifting demands in various industries and the critical role of innovative automation solutions in addressing these changes.

Comau, provider of industrial automation and robotics, is at the forefront of this transformation. The company, historically rooted in the automotive sector, has been automating production lines globally.

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the demand for automation across diverse sectors, including warehousing, logistics, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, renewable energy, construction, and naval shipbuilding. These industries are experiencing significant growth in automation, presenting vast opportunities for innovation and development.

One common challenge highlighted by Clement is the widespread shortage of skilled labor across various fields, from manufacturing and logistics to engineering and software development. Industries are increasingly dealing with smaller automation footprints and unstructured environments, necessitating more adaptable and sophisticated automation solutions. This shift is moving away from traditional high-volume, low-mix production to more varied and dynamic manufacturing processes.

Clement underscored the need for sustainable, affordable robotics solutions. This includes second-life utilization of robots, new maintenance concepts, and innovative investment models like rentals, leasing, and pay-per-use schemes. The renewable energy sector, in particular, presents an opportunity for robotics to foster green energy adoption.

With a decreasing number of workers in manufacturing and logistics, there’s a growing need to automate smaller tasks. Collaborative robots (cobots) are emerging as cost-effective, safe solutions for these roles, enhancing rather than replacing industrial automation.

The presentation also touched upon the necessity for Intelligent Robotics, capable of learning and adapting through AI and sensor-based technologies. These advancements are critical in addressing high-variability processes and unstructured environments without the need for costly reprogramming.

Digital automation and twinning are becoming inseparable from next-generation robotics. These technologies help in monitoring and improving automation performance, reducing risks, and streamlining operations from engineering to maintenance.

Mobile manipulators are highlighted as the future for industries like construction and shipbuilding. These are advanced systems that combine mobility with robotic arms, designed to perform complex tasks in challenging environments, emphasizing the need for sophisticated safety measures driven by software.

Clement concluded by addressing the need for more user-friendly software to bridge the skill gap in robot programming. She expressed excitement about Comau’s partnership with Intrinsic, an Alphabet company, in making robotics more accessible and advancing the adoption of next-generation automation solutions.

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