Todd Dickey, Engineering Coordinator, Honda Engineering, North America
What is your viewpoint on the Robotics landscape?
From an industrial standpoint, it is a field that is ever growing with many opportunities and advancements in different technologies. Primarily when we look at the robotics landscape, we are looking at applications in which we create an environment that improves manual labor safety and productivity. We can increase productivity with the use of robotics—a robot could take the place of the person working on the menial job and give them more time to do something more meaningful. If we look at dangerous processes, robots are ideal for the situation; we cannot put humans at risk while producing our products. Another area that is beneficial for the use of robots is routine, repetitive tasks with ergonomic issues. Therefore, there are many different areas where industrial robots can improve employee safety while at the same time increase a company’s productivity.
Regarding your market space, what are you working on currently? Tell us about the projects and initiatives that will be coming out?
We are now trying to look for ways to utilize newer technologies. There are new robots that make the design of the equipment more flexible and easier with safety functions built into the robot controller.
New robot controllers have the ability to safely limit the robot’s operating space, dynamically change their speeds, and use the safety functions to set a speed limit so that the associates can work closer to the robot. The robot system will stop if the sensing technology detects the space is being violated. Additionally, the industry is looking to utilize the power and force limiting robots in certain applications to allow the human and robot to occupy a shared space.
So what according to you is the feedback mechanism to ensure that the existing infrastructure in the industry landscape promises to deliver their full potential? How do you look to optimize the robotics space?
The feedback that shows the industry is hitting its target is multifaceted. There are indicators such as company productivity and profitability numbers, reductions in OSHA recordable injuries, the creation of high tech and higher paying jobs, and the startup of new companies producing new technologies to enhance robotic applications to just name a few. Examples of those new technologies are sensing devices, grippers, mobile platforms, etc. Our company will continue to look to robotic technologies to improve efficiency, reduce production floor space, increase employee morale and improve workplace safety.
When you get together with your team members, how do you work on steering the company forward in an innovative direction?
So what we do as a company is try and take a team approach and conceptualize things. One of the first things we always like to do is assess the risk with the automated equipment being designed. We establish a good safeguarding strategy to the designs by conducting task-based risk assessments and applying consensus standards. This approach goes from a pre-design phase, through the commissioning phase and eventually through the startup of the equipment for mass production. This approach creates open dialog amongst the team members, which in turn stimulates creative solutions.
What would be your piece of advice from the perspective of engineering coordinators towards work and safety considerations?
I think too often, engineers enter the workforce without enough knowledge of industry consensus standards. Before anybody even enters into the engineering workforce, it would be beneficial if universities would do a better job of educating the students to the consensus standards. The last thing that an engineer wants is to injure somebody with the piece of equipment they have designed.