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already available, allowing end users and OEMs to determine their usages and requirements,” he said, adding that as AI develops, automation will ultimately dictate some of the consumers’/end users’ own thought processes; for example, whether to opt for driverless and/or all electric cars, or to shop online and have drone deliveries. “From industry’s perspective, self-diagnosis of plant and production equipment will negate the need for expensive callouts of technicians and the unnecessary replacement of parts etc.,” he said.

Sands believes we will continue to see a polarisation; lower cost, standard components to meet the demand for low prices at one end of the market, and at the other a higher technology system approach looking at the total and life time costs to meet the need for pay-per-use and servitisation business models arising out of Industry 4.0. “We are making it considerably easier for our customers to find and select the right products for their application and provide the web-based software to combine and order these parts as a sub-assembly,” he said. “Where more complex systems are involved then we see a vision where all the documentation, calculations and CAE work will be easily combined, and will work seamlessly across platforms to make it faster and easier to generate and maintain documentation throughout a machine’s lifecycle.”

With the demand high for energy efficient products, Littlewood sees PICVs and DPCVs becoming increasingly popular; “not only because they are energy efficient, but because they are also self-acting, and so take away the risk of human error and commissioning; saving people time as well as money”.

Revell commented that the rate of change for automation has the potential to be exponential. “With Industry 4.0, all things will be communicating to ensure complete standardisation, improving product quality and efficient manufacturing processes,” he said. “Whether or not human interface is required in the task, conformity can be measured and thus improved quality consistency can be achieved. The implication of this is the prediction of deviations from the required standards and ensuring the corrective interventions can be implemented prior to an event. The implication to service response is therefore crucial, fast response to events before they occur will become more and more essential to the faultless operation of systems.”

AI – threat or asset?

Picking up on the Artificial Intelligence theme, is AI a threat or an asset to people’s jobs in the workplace? Cuthbert sees AI as an asset, in that it will help users and allow humans to focus on value-added tasks rather than repetitive ones.

Brooks considers that if we educate and train, then humans will always be needed for the workplace. “We all need to develop, and education and training will provide us with the skilled workforce that a future modern economy will require,” he said, adding that having said that, it is worth pointing out that AI is not the full solution.

Buxton’s view is that the march of technology is driven by a goal to improve the lot of mankind and reduce the burden on the working man. “That has always been the case and will continue to be so,” he said. “AI isn’t a threat as long as we harness its enormous potential and make provision for the inevitable impact that it will have on the work force. i.e. there will be a need for greater training in new technologies and perhaps an acceptance that we may have to be paid the same for working less hours. Automation and robotics are inextricably linked to efficiency and productivity. If the robots take up the burden of improving productivity and there is




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