Radwell E Magazine Issue 01 - Page 13



At Tier II, systems store evidence of their experiences
within their memory, similar to the way in which we
humans empirically learn from the world around us.
This is a step up from Tier I systems, which are
capable only of reacting directly to stimuli in a preprogrammed manner. While this can still be
considered artificial 'learning' - the system is adding to
its experience up to the limits of its information storage
capabilities, after all - it is still some distance from
'understanding' and becoming 'self-aware', two
functions which remain beyond the reach of modern
robotics and AI.
This is not to say that smart manufacturing is not
already possible within the current bounds of AI
technology. Electronics firm Siemens has already
developed artificially intelligent robot equipment which
behaves in an 'autonomous', rather than in an
'automatic', fashion, and are putting this to work within
their showcase Amberg plant in Germany.
components must be produced at a small volume often referred to in the industry as Batch Size 1.
At Batch Size 1, a piece of robotic equipment would
need to be programmed ahead of time, enabling it to
complete the task in hand. On completion, it would
then need to be reprogrammed for the next task, and
so on and so forth, ad infinitum. Pre-programming in
this manner is a time-consuming task, and repeating
the programming phase for each new small job is
simply not cost-effective. Even if all of the sequential
tasks could be programmed into the robot's memory
ahead of time, the machine would still need to
'understand' which part of the job it was currently
working on, adjusting its function accordingly, and
increasing the potential for error. This would also leave
no possibility for learning transferable skills to be used
on other jobs in the future.
The team at Siemens identified how the strength of a
traditional automated system is also the shortcoming
of the technology. Robotics has already proved adept
at repeating the same process over and over again,
manufacturing the same component quickly,
economically, and at an enormous volume. But this
ability to repeat the same function after an initial phase
of programming is of no use to smaller scale
manufacturing jobs, in which many different
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