By Editor Morten B. Reitoft 

Back in 1978, the German band Kraftwerk reached the charts with a song called We Are the Robots - a song that is still played and by many seen as one of the most influential songs in modern music. I love the song. My wife hates it, and I believe almost all songs from the Kraftwerk repertoire divide people.
The term robot origins back in 1920 where the Czech author Karel Capek's brother used an already known word, 'Robota,' which means something like forced labor. The idea of humanoids or machines working independently is old - very old, but that's another story.

Robots have, however, paved their way into industrial productions where industries like the car industry today couldn't manufacture cars without. The dream of fully automated factories is intriguing to owners of labor-intensive productions. With growing labor costs and faster and better computers, mechanics, hydraulics, etc., the day may come sooner than expected.

The printing industry's need for optimization and automation has been an ongoing topic for years. Pre-press departments have for years been more automated, and though the ratio between production and sales/administration in most printing companies has tilted almost entirely, lights out production and entirely automated productions are still high on the wish-list for many.

For years, the industry has seen an increased focus on automation with everything from flying plate changes to automated color calibrations, and even AGV's and fully automated warehouses are now available.

In the past months, INKISH has covered logistics solutions from Schur. Using the latest technology to super-optimize, i.e., printing machines, enable much higher productivity on the printing machines - and is, according to Schur for sure, something that is accessible for companies of all sizes.

One of the people that have worked intensively with robots in the printing industry is Henrik Christiansen. You can see his session from one of our previous webinars here.

Robots are, of course, as diverse and complex as the applications in the market, and you see everything from small cobots to giant industrial robots.

Will robots now finally be used with printing companies? Well, good question, and it really depends on a couple of things. Does it make sense from a financial perspective? And will printers be able to implement the robots in environments that, in many ways, are very diverse?

Many PSPs may ask, what is a robot, and does it differ from so many other things we do in our productions? Heidelberger Druckmaschinen last year showed a system that brings the plates from CTP directly to the printing machine. This is maybe not a 'robot,' but for sure yet another step on the automation path. At the Think Smart Factory in Kyoto, we filmed autonomous vehicles bringing material to and from the production equipment. Maybe simple robots, but increasing the up-time on the production equipment. Compared to how automated Amazon warehouses are, this is still in its early beginning, but the future is clear.

Robots, IoT, VR, and AI, are all elements in optimizing productions, and all elements are seen at printing companies today.

Tuesday (November 9th, 2021), we will be visiting MBO in Oppenweiler in Germany to talk to CEO Thomas Heininger and Henrik Christiansen about their view on the near future and robots in a longer perspective!

One of the things that could be interesting to discuss is the future of value-creation. If we look at how people are compensated today, it's an equation between labor cost and added value to be sold. If robots take over a lot of labor, societies will change entirely - and I am not saying for the better, but it will raise a lot of new exciting questions!

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