Leading robotics and automation company, Yaskawa Southern Africa is at the forefront as a forward-thinking leader, actively anticipating and embracing industry-shaping trends. National Sales Manager at Yaskawa, Jan T’Hart, shares insights on the future of automation, pinpointing the trends set to redefine manufacturing in the country. Delving into the new year, Yaskawa’s strategic vision prioritises technological advancements, industry-specific needs, and a steadfast commitment to sustainability.

Emerging Technologies and Innovations

Yaskawa envisions profound impact from AI advancements, anticipating enhanced perception and decision-making in robots. “Continued advancements in AI, especially in Machine Learning and deep learning, are likely to enhance the capabilities of robots. This includes improved perception, decision-making, and adaptability to dynamic environments,” explains T’Hart. He also makes mention of edge computing’s role: “Processing data closer to the source, known as edge computing, can reduce latency and improve real-time decision-making for robots. This is particularly important in applications like autonomous vehicles and drones.”

Human-Robot Collaboration

Collaborative robotics (cobots) and safety technologies enable closer interaction between humans and robots in shared workspaces. With these advancements, South Africa’s manufacturing sector can expect a seamless integration of humans and robots in the future, fostering productive and efficient working environments. “This is particularly relevant in manufacturing and healthcare settings,” adds T’Hart.

Advanced Sensing Technologies

In 2024, increased use of innovations in sensor technologies, including LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging—a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges—and radar, as well as improved computer vision, can enhance the perception capabilities of robots. According to T’Hart, “This is crucial for navigation, object recognition, and interaction with the environment.”

Addressing Growing Demand

“In preparation of the growing demand for robotics in industries such as manufacturing and logistics, Yaskawa’s strategic approach involves continuous product innovation, focusing on performance, precision, and safety. Additionally, the emphasis on cobots, customisation, and digitalisation aligns seamlessly with the diverse needs of South Africa’s manufacturing and logistics sectors, reflecting a commitment to meeting evolving demands,” says T’Hart.

AI and Machine Learning

Yaskawa recognises the transformative role of AI and Machine Learning, enhancing robots’ perception, adaptive decision-making, predictive maintenance, and task automation. As such, these advancements align with South Africa’s goal of incorporating intelligent automation to boost productivity and competitiveness in a rapidly changing global landscape. T’Hart goes on to explain that “the growing trend in the industry towards cobots compels Yaskawa, like other manufacturers, to focus on developing cobots with advanced safety features and user-friendly interfaces to facilitate human-robot collaboration.”

Robotics Software and Programming

Efficiency and adaptability take center stage in Yaskawa’s commitment to user-friendly programming interfaces, simulation technologies, offline programming, and remote monitoring. These features not only enhance operational efficiency but also cater to the evolving needs of South African industries seeking streamlined processes and responsive operations.

Collaborative Robotics Trends

Safety features, ease of programming, flexibility, human-centric design, and integration with other technologies define Yaskawa’s approach to human-robot collaboration. These aspects align seamlessly with the South African industry’s emphasis on safety and adaptability, fostering a harmonious interaction between humans and robots.

Autonomous Robotics

With regards to keeping up with forthcoming trends in automation, T’Hart emphasises: “Yaskawa, like many other companies in the industry, are destined to embrace the principles of Industry 4.0. This involves the integration of digital technologies, IoT (Internet of Things), and data analytics to create smart and connected manufacturing systems.” Additionally, Yaskawa’s exploration of autonomous navigation, SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation And Mapping) technology, AI-based decision-making, and collaboration with IoT and Industry 4.0 positions the company at the forefront of autonomy trends. This forward-thinking approach aligns with the growing demand for autonomous solutions in South Africa, offering a glimpse into a future where machines operate with increasing independence.

Security and Safety Measures

When it comes to safety and security, the company adheres to industry safety standards and regulations relevant to the robotics sector. “Yaskawa’s comprehensive approach to security encompasses safety standards, advanced sensors, safe collaboration, access control, network security, and thorough risk assessments. This robust strategy addresses the critical need for secure and safe robotic systems in South Africa, especially in sensitive sectors where reliability is paramount,” affirms T’Hart. In terms of collision avoidance systems, they are crucial for preventing accidents and ensuring the safety of both the robotic system and human operators. Yaskawa’s emphasis on safety lends to this with T’Hart saying: “Yaskawa is looking to continue investing in technologies and design principles that facilitate safe human-robot collaboration. This includes developing collaborative robots (cobots) with features like force-limiting and speed monitoring to ensure that robots can work alongside humans without posing a danger.”

Sustainability Measures

In response to the increasing focus on sustainability, Yaskawa places much emphasis on energy-efficient design, regenerative braking, low-power standby modes, material selection, recycling, and efficient production processes. These initiatives align seamlessly with South Africa’s commitment to environmental responsibility, showcasing a holistic approach to minimising the ecological footprint of robotic systems.

Industry-Specific Trends

Yaskawa’s acknowledgment of the role of robotics in post-pandemic workplaces and the automation of e-commerce and logistics resonates with South Africa’s evolving industrial landscape. “The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of contactless technologies. For example, in the workplace, robots have been deployed to perform tasks that traditionally involve human contact, such as cleaning, disinfecting, and material handling. Whereas now cobots are equipped with more advanced sensors and vision systems and have been employed to maintain social distancing in manufacturing and assembly lines. In essence, these robots can adapt their movements based on the proximity of human workers,” explained T’Hart.

Strategic Collaborations

Looking to future collaborations in 2024, T’Hart boasts: “Collaborations with research institutions, universities and colleges can provide access to cutting-edge research and talent. Yaskawa may work with academic partners to stay informed about the latest developments in robotics and to contribute to the advancement of the field.” Needless to say, Yaskawa’s collaborations span a diverse spectrum. “Collaborating with companies that specialise in specific technologies, such as artificial intelligence, computer vision, or edge computing, can enhance the capabilities of Yaskawa’s robotic systems. Integrating the latest technologies into their solutions can contribute to improved performance and adaptability.”

As Yaskawa charts a course through the intricate landscape of robotics in South Africa, its vision extends beyond mere innovation. The company emerges not only as a thought leader, but as a strategic partner, poised to facilitate the transition of South African industries into a future where robotics and automation redefine possibilities.

National Sales Manager at Yaskawa, Jan T’Hart,

By Admin