Horan Automation

The Rise of the Machine

Artificial intelligence is a source of science fiction entertainment for many with the recent release of movies like “Terminator”, “A.I” and “Ex Machina” but for others it is the reality of their day to day work.  Horan Automation and Consulting is an organisation that programs and installs robots to carry out bespoke and specific tasks as requested by their clients.  This makes them unique.  Many manufacturing facilities buy in pre-existing production machinery but Horan Automation and Consulting’s engineers can actually design and create unique machines to carry out almost any task.

The invention of robots spans back to 400-350bc when a famous philosopher, mathematician, statesman, astronomer and strategist called Archytas created a steam powered wooden pigeon.  The first digital and programmable robot was invented by George Devol in 1954 and was named the Unimate. It was sold to General Motors in 1961 where it was used to lift pieces of hot metal from die casting machines.  This advance allowed for industrial work that would be too dangerous for operators to be carried out safely.  Robots therefore filled a need for the manufacturing industry doing exactly what they were originally designed to, to carry out tasks that humans are not able to or do not want to do.

Robotics has evolved quickly since then, with exciting new technological developments in the past decades such as the internet, mobile phones and industrial automation.  However, these advances concentrate on carrying out only certain explicit tasks and while they may exceed the capabilities of humans at that one task, overall they cannot compete with the human brain, yet.

When one thinks of the word robot what comes to mind?  Presumably it’s a steel humanoid with red laser eyes.  The term “robot” is defined in the dictionary as “a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer.”  In other words if one looks around one can find many robots working away in the background.  Most automated robots take the form of a robotic arm from one of the main brands such as Fanuc or Mitsubishi.

Robots and industrial automation has grown in popularity in recent years not only due to their capability to carry out dangerous tasks but also due the fact that they make manufacturing more efficient and more profitable.  Automated systems can meet surges in demand by quickly and easily increasing production rates as well as executing tasks more precisely thus improving output quality.  Automation also reduces the costs of waste and absenteeism due to injury (such as repetitive stress injury).  Flexibility of production is greater due to increased capabilities of machinery and their scope to be reprogrammed easily.

At Horan Automation and Consulting the future of robots is a given and they help their clients to realise the advantages of automation.  The organisation works with many clients including high profile multinationals in the pharmaceutical, manufacturing, medical device and food industries.  The kinds of automation projects commissioned by the engineering team at Horan Automation and Consulting could vary from building bespoke pick and place solutions using robots to designing and implementing a turkey complete line of automated machinery.

Conor Mullally, Project Manager at Horan Automation and Consulting, explains that their engineers possess a unique skillset enabling them to design and build bespoke manufacturing solutions for the manufacturing industry.  Mullally comments “Technology and the automation industry moves so quickly that sometimes international machine suppliers are unaware of the individual needs of certain niche areas of manufacturing.  Machines are churned out on a production line to serve the majority of the market, sometimes leaving clients with a manufacturing process that only operates to 80% of its potential.  Horan Automation and Consulting steps in to bring the process to 100% by adding the bespoke automation elements that are not only specific to a client’s industry but specific to an individual client.”

Horan Automation and Consulting not only offers the building of bespoke machinery but also they use their fifty years of combined automation knowledge to source and supply pre-existing machinery.  The client can enjoy a one stop shop for turnkey automation of their entire production line.  Working in the world of automation has not caused the team to undervalue the importance of customer service however.

Gerry Horan, MD of Horan Automation, has remained steadfastly focused on his clients’ individual needs, regardless of their size or the industry they are in.  “We carried out a recent customer survey that showed that localised customer service and machine maintenance is of the utmost importance to our clients” comments Mr. Horan.

“We ensure that after we install an automation system or machine that we allow operators and maintenance staff a bedding-in period of six weeks.  During this time we make ourselves available to them for training.  We also offer a maintenance service to clients if needed after the project is completed.”

Mr. Horan also praises the quality of the machinery the business supplies remarking “We only source the best quality equipment for our clients.  We install and integrate the equipment and systems ourselves and offer twelve months of customer service assistance.  Our machines are CE quality certified to the highest operational and safety standards.”

It is apparent that automation and the inclusion of robots is the future but what are the negative impacts of artificial intelligence?  And what are the risks to mankind of such advances? The main fears of robots evolving into A.I. involve them wreaking havoc and being uncontrollable.  For example if A.I was used in warfare and programmed to destroy, it would not possess human empathy or decision making skills and would be extremely difficult to deactivate.  This could result in mass devastation.

While using robots for warfare is a potential future threat, robots can still interfere in our day to day lives in the present.  The automation of production lines could contribute to job losses and this is a very real issue following a recent global recession.  When asked about the negative effects of automating a manufacturing facility, Gerry Horan commented “We have been automating production processes for many decades and the issue of job losses is uncommon.  Engineers usually choose to automate a process that is not fit for humans to perform, such as the constant handling of bread straight out of the oven at two hundred degrees or moving heavy materials.  Robots are recruited to enhance the production process rather than replace human operators.  In our experience, if a robot does replace an operator it is because the operator’s job was unsafe in the first place and they are usually promoted to managing the robot’s tasks or deployed to another role in the organisation.”

According to Mr. Horan, automation is simply a way for an organisation to modernise their facility and increase their output merging robots with humans.   Robots are specialists at a certain task but ultimately do not replace the complex human brain and need to be managed by humans.  Historically speaking, human employment has evolved over the centuries from industrial jobs during the revolution in the 18th century, to the high demand for construction skills in Ireland in the 1990’s and 2000’s before the housing crash.

The demand for specialised skills is cyclical and a future increase in automation will no doubt create more highly skilled jobs in engineering, design, IT and computer programming.  In conclusion, A.I and the automation of industry is nothing to be afraid of, rather, like Horan Automation and Consulting, it’s time for society to acquire automation skills and get ahead of the curve.  If you would like to find out more about Horan Automation and Consulting visit their website www.horan.ie, email sales@horan.ie or call 052 9152414

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