U.S. Companies Put Record Number of Robots to Work in 2018

Channel NewsAsia

February 28, 2019

U.S. companies installed more robots last year than ever before, as cheaper and more flexible machines put them within reach of businesses of all sizes and in more corners of the economy beyond their traditional foothold in car plants.


Shipments hit 28,478, nearly 16% more than in 2017, according to data seen by Reuters that was set for release on Thursday by the Association for Advancing Automation, an industry group based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Shipments increased in every sector the group tracks, except automotive, where carmakers cut back after finishing a major round of tooling up for new truck models.


Other sectors boomed. Shipments to food and consumer goods companies surged 60% compared to the year before. Shipments to semiconductor and electronics plants were up over 50%, while shipments to metal producers rose 13%.


Pressure to automate is growing as companies seek to cut labor costs in a tight job market. Many companies that are considering bringing work back from overseas in response to the Trump administrations trade wars may find automation the best way to stay competitive, even with higher-cost U.S. workers.


Bob Doyle, vice president of the Association for Advancing Automation, said automation is moving far beyond its traditional foothold in auto assembly plants and other large manufacturers into warehouses and smaller factories.


One of those is Metro Plastics Technologies Inc, a family-owned business in Noblesville, Indiana, which has only 125 employees and got its start in the 1970s making, among other things, mood rings. Last March, the company bought its first robot, an autonomous machine that carries finished parts from the production area to quality inspectors. In the past, that work was done by workers driving forklifts.


We had three propane, 5,000-pound forklifts, said Ken Hahn, the companys president. Weve eliminated those. Hahns robot cost $40,000, about twice that of the cheapest option he considered, but far below the $125,000 machines also on offer.


Last year marked the first time since 2010 that auto and auto part companies failed to account for more than half of shipments, coming at just under 49% instead, according to the report. In 2017, over 60% of shipments went to automakers.


The food industry is really starting to take off as a market for automation, said Dan Hasley, director of sales and marketing for Kawasaki Robotics (USA) Inc., part of Japans Kawasaki Heavy Industries. He added that food and beverage is one of the segments that really responds to tight labor markets.


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Walmart, Target Partner With FedEx on Delivery Robots That Rival Amazon’s Scout

Footwearnews

February 28, 2019

Retail has upped its stake in the battle of the nations shipping giants.


FedEx Corp. announced Wednesday a partnership with big-box chains Walmart and Target, among other companies, to test robots tasked with delivering packages to customers within the same day.


Dubbed the SameDay Bot, the so-called last-mile autonomous device would transport products directly to shoppers homes or businesses, allowing them to take advantage of on-demand and hyperlocal delivery. (More than 60% of merchants customers live within three miles of a store location, according to FedEx.) The courier service has also teamed up with AutoZone, Lowes, Pizza Hut and Walgreens.


The FedEx SameDay Bot is an innovation designed to change the face of local delivery and help retailers efficiently address their customers rising expectations, said Brie Carere, EVP and chief marketing and communications officer at FedEx. The bot represents a milestone in our ongoing mission to solve the complexities and expense of same-day, last-mile delivery for the growing e-commerce market in a manner that is safe and environmentally friendly.


The battery-powered bots, with their wheels and cooler-like appearance, are equipped with multiple cameras and sensor technology that help them detect and avoid obstacles, as well as navigate unpaved ground and even steps. After a prototype made its first public appearance on Tuesday in NBCs The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the machines will be refined to meet safety standards and regulations, and then debut through a test run in select markets, including FedExs hometown of Memphis, Tenn.


Walmart and Targets move pits the retailers even further against e-tail behemoth Amazon, which has already introduced its own delivery robot called Scout. The fully electric system, developed in the retailers Seattle lab, was taken on a field test in January across Snohomish County, Washington. Although FedEx competitor UPS is not experimenting with robots, it has also begun trying out drone deliveries.


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How to Evaluate Different Types of Engineering Degrees, Jobs

USNEWS.com

February 27, 2019

By Ilana Kowarski


Prospective engineering students should consider which degree will lead to their dream job, experts say.


If your dream career is one where you are designing, building and retooling intricate structures and machines, then you may want to consider studying engineering. Students in this discipline learn how to create, maintain and improve useful objects such as planes, bridges or computers, and those who earn degrees in this technical field tend to have strong job prospects.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average median wage for U.S. engineers in 2016 exceeded $91,000, which was more than double the typical wage among U.S. workers.


However, both engineering students and university career services officials caution against pursuing an engineering degree simply to earn a large salary. They say an engineering program is only appropriate for a student who enjoys math and science and who excels in these academic subjects.


The No. 1 trait to have in engineering would be problem-solving, so you just have to love getting a problem and then tackling it, says Jake Berkowitz, a college sophomore at Duke Universitys Pratt School of Engineering in North Carolina. Berkowitz says engineering students need to be persistent enough to continue trying to solve a difficult problem even if they failed on a previous attempt.


Dona Gaynor, director of career management services at the Florida Institute of Technology, says engineering programs at colleges and universities tend to be exceedingly rigorous, so someone who has struggled in math or science courses in the past is probably not a good candidate for an engineering degree.


Nevertheless, though they acknowledge that engineering is difficult to learn, many engineers say they are glad they studied this complex subject, because it led them to fulfilling careers.


Engineering is a way of solving problems, and engineers solve problems that change the world, says Penny Wirsing, an environmental engineer and current president of the Society of Women Engineers. If you think about anything, anything that is in your world today, there was an engineer involved in it somewhere. And so when I talk to students about engineering, I ask them, Do they want to have an impact?


People determined to pursue either an undergraduate or graduate engineering degree have many options to choose from. There are a variety of types of engineering, each of which focuses on the conception and construction of a different type of technology. Engineering students typically are required to concentrate on a specific kind of engineering. For instance, they might specialize in aerospace engineering, a field that focuses on the production of aircraft and spacecraft, or petroleum engineering, a field where the primary goal is to design and build oil drills, natural gas pipelines and other technologies that assist the oil and gas industry. They could also focus on environmental engineering, a discipline which is devoted to inventing and implementing technological solutions to environmental problems, or materials engineering, which focuses on the creation of substances that can enhance quality of life, such as heat-resistant or corrosive-resistant metals.


There are literally dozens of different engineering majors at various schools across the country, Thomas Wolff, associate dean emeritus of undergraduate programs in the College of Engineering at Michigan State University, wrote in an email. Sometimes called the big four, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and chemical engineering are the largest in numbers, and taught at most engineering schools. Following those, materials science and engineering, biomedical engineering, environmental engineering, aerospace engineering, etc. are common, but not at as many places, so national enrollments are smaller.


Wolff notes that some universities house their computer science departments within their engineering schools, whereas other universities do not. Beyond that, there are many other majors only found at specific schools, such as mining engineering, welding engineering, architectural engineering, etc.


Because of the fast pace of technological advancement in the 21st century, there are an ever-increasing number of engineering specialties. Some of these specialties focus on manufacturing products like automobiles that use well-established technology, and others concentrate on the development of cutting-edge tech products such as biological 3-D printers that print out human organs for use in organ transplants. Biomedical engineering, a type of engineering that focuses on making products that improve human health, is a new but increasingly popular and influential engineering specialization whose practitioners are creating life-saving technologies.


Here are some brief definitions of the big four engineering specialties which clarify the differences among these four specialties.

  • Civil engineering: This field focuses on the best practices for planning and completing civil infrastructure projects, such as highways and sewage treatment systems. It also often includes lessons on how to envision and construct ambitious building projects that have a significant impact on their surrounding communities, such as skyscrapers and large developments.
  • Electrical engineering: This discipline allows students to learn how to design and construct the electrical underpinnings of machines like cameras and cellphones.
  • Mechanical engineering: Experts on this subject know how to invent, make and improve the mechanical components of devices like seatbelts and airbags.
  • Chemical engineering: People in this field know how to use chemicals to create everyday objects such as clothing and medicine.


Gaynor says prospective engineering students should let their intellectual passions and personal long-term goals guide their choice about what type of degree to pursue.


I would tell them to think about what they are interested in and what they like to do, because some majorsfor instance, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and even aerospace engineeringare a bit more hands-on types of career fields, she says. Gaynor notes that engineering specialties that involve creating and manipulating tangible objects differ enormously from fields like software engineering, which involves coding.


Gaynor adds that the decision about whether an undergraduate degree in engineering is sufficient or a graduate degree is necessary should be made based on a students career goals.


A student who wants to work in research and development perhaps, (and) that wants to get more involved in developing new products and ideas and new ways of doing things would definitely benefit from a graduate degree, Gaynor says. And certainly anybody who wanted to move into academia or just pure research should definitely get a Ph.D.


She says a graduate credential is beneficial, for example, for engineers in certain highly technical engineering fields, like biomedical engineering, and it can be helpful for any engineer who wants to work as a teacher or researcher. However, Gaynor says an undergraduate degree in engineering will suffice for most entry-level engineering jobs, and says it is common for individuals with bachelors degrees in engineering to obtain non-engineering positions, such as management jobs. Engineering degree recipients sometimes work as technical sales people who are responsible for selling high-tech products, Gaynor says, and others go on to pursue a professional degree of some kind such as a medical degree.


Samuel Malachowsky, a senior lecturer of software engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technologys Kate Gleason College of Engineering in New York, says engineering students shouldnt stress too much about which engineering concentration they choose, because that decision will not wholly determine the arc of their career.


Malachowsky says there is so much crossover between engineering disciplines that engineers of different types can often work in similar jobs or team up on the same projects, and he says the two fundamental skills taught in engineering programsdesign and processare universal among all the various kinds of engineering.


If you pick the wrong type of engineering, its not necessarily a career-ender, Malachowsky says. There are a lot of engineers who have studied under another bannerso maybe they started as an electrical engineer and now theyre a computer engineer or vice versa. Theres some space for lateral movement.


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Subaru Named Best Car Brand by U.S. Consumer Reports

Jiji Press Ticker Service

February 27, 2019

Japanese automaker Subaru Corp.s Subaru was named the best car brand for the first time in U.S. magazine Consumer Reports annual rankings released Thursday.


Subarus strong predicted reliability and owner satisfaction marks drove it to the head of the pack, the magazine said. It rose from seventh in last years rankings.


Among other Japanese brands, Toyota Motor Corp.s Lexus luxury brand came fifth, Mazda Motor Corp.s Mazda sixth and the Toyota brand ninth.


Honda Motor Co.s Honda was ranked 13th and Nissan Motor Co.s Nissan 21st.


South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co.s Genesis luxury brand fell to second place from last years top, while German automaker Volkswagen AGs Porsche rose to third from fifth.


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