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The Next Big Disruptive Technology Since the PC Era? Industrial Robotics.

Do you remember what life was like before personal computers? Typewriters, paper, envelopes and postage stamps were key to business communications. Schools taught skills like shorthand, typing and dictation. Then came personal computers and shredded the status quo (when was the last time you used a dictaphone?) And now, disruptive technology visionaries like Bill Gates, former Microsoft CEO, predict robotics is the next disruptive force to change our world.

But we don’t have to take Bill’s word for it. Just ask Rodney Brooks, co-founder of iRobot, founder of Rethink Robotics, and former MIT Robotics professor who envisioned insect-like robots 12 years before the technology ended up in NASA robots that explored Mars. Within manufacturing, robotics represents a $5 billion industry in the U.S. According to Market Research Reports, the industrial robotics market is poised for huge growth, with a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.5 percent to an estimated value of $32.9 billion by 2017.

Rodney’s vision for robotics rivals Bill Gate’s vision for personal computing. In fact, in his 2003 TED talk, Rodney related the robotics movement to the PC era.

“I think we’re sort of on the cusp of robots becoming common, and I think we’re sort of around 1978 or 1980 in personal computer years, where the first few robots are starting to appear.”

And he’s shared his ideas with the U.S. government as part of a small but prestigious team of experts—an important audience since the manufacturing sector represents 14 percent of the U.S. GDP. Furthermore, central to this growth is industrial automation, ensuring lower costs, higher quality and better jobs. Poised to take advantage of modern technologies, automated factories will be full of automated processes relying on things like nanotech sensors, very fast networks, quality diagnostic software and flexible interfaces controlled through centralized operations.

Arturo Baronelli, International Federation of Robotics (IFR) Vice President, sums up the opportunity automation brings to economies:

“Robotized automation is a key strategic factor to enhance competitiveness both for the big, medium and small enterprises. The IFR initiative “Robots create Jobs” has documented, with real cases, how robotics has been the basis of a paradigm shift that allowed dramatic successes of medium and small size companies.”

Currently, research labs around the world are working on innovative new technologies that will move industrial robotics forward, providing significantly improved vision systems, greater mobility and flexible assembly options. Future factories will be highly configurable, flexible, networked and reconfigurable down to the smallest valve or switch. Industrial robots will help us lift, carry, deliver, position and learn. But most importantly, they’ll move our global economy forward.

Jabil shares the vision that industrial robots contribute to our success. We are currently utilizing this technology within our factories to improve accuracy, reliability, throughput and to reduce operator fatigue that ultimately provides our customers cost-effective, flexible assembly solutions. Working diligently on innovations, we incorporate industrial robot technology into our processes, work cells and wherever else it makes sense.

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