– When the whole system will be launched, what tasks will it perform?
– It'll be launched in the nearest future. Its main task is to make a uniform shell over the entire cable length. This is not easy for a person: he or she needs to constantly monitor the production process, and to throw lead ingots into the furnace, and to check the shell thickness. It takes two employees to do this job. And the system copes with it easily, and it needs only one person to help it. The second one can be assigned to other works.
The robot offers tremendous savings, which means the tasks are expanding. We already plan to install an additional conveyor, we will "launch" three or four more robots, and implement a machine vision system as well. We've got a whole new idea for a pulling robot that will pull the cable instead of people. Can you imagine, it's still done manually!nstead of people. Can you imagine, it's still done by hand! – Don't you think the digitalization of production is dragging on? Like in a saying: "older boys have more expensive toys".
– Absolutely. However, the most important thing is still the payback time. If it is over three years old, it's not for us. But there is also a drive, a pleasure of solving a difficult problem and to some extent of doing something good, because robots save people from hard physical labor. One lead ingot weighs 20 kg and people have to throw them into the furnace during the whole shift. I did it myself. It's very hard. – Do employees appreciate this change?
– They're more likely to be wary of the robot for now. For them, it's a strikebreaker that could take away their job. But we're not planning on firing anybody. We are expanding the number of customers, increasing production volumes. It's time for us to introduce the third shift, and we definitely need people in production. It's okay, sooner or later the employees will get used to their robot colleagues as well. It takes time. – Have you ever thought about digitizing the entire plant, as Gazprom, for example, almost did? Does your company need a digital twin?
– Certainly not now. In general, digital twins are needed to conduct various experiments in a large factory. If you need to understand how to implement the innovations, you run a test simulation, and it shows you what processes and how you need to change. We are not on the same scale, and we see all our tasks with a naked eye: what should be digitized, where the production needs the help of a robot etc. Resolution of these issues is paramount and pays off in one to three years. As soon as we have coped with them, we'll move on to more complex tasks with a payback period of five to eight years. And at the last stage, where projects pay off within 8-11 years, we are likely to reach the scale of Gazprom. That's when we might need a digital twin!
If you want to get familiar with the "father" of the robot, which in operation at Moskabelmet, to learn what is unique in its gripping mechanism and why it won't take part in a machine rebellion, read the interview with Andrey Spiridonov
, head of Aripix-Robotics.