On June 16th 2023, NTNU held the first of a series of digital workshops on robotics for agile production under the title “Beyond Industry 4.0: Reskilling the Labour Force & The Future of Agile Production”.
During this workshop, NTNU invited the audience, composed of members from the scientific community, industry and civil society, to reflect on themes of responsible robotics in agile production and manufacturing. They also took into account issues around job replacement or displacement, as well as the impact of robot integration in the sector.
The keynote speakers of the workshop, Ladislav Dvorak, CEO of RoboTwin, and Angel Dacal-Nieto, Factory of the Future Area Manager at CTAG, opened the workshop with two fascinating presentations about their companies and work practices.
Their keynote speeches were especially intriguing regarding the concerns of the community because they both adopted an approach that shifted the common perception – which relied on the idea that robots would replace human labour into one where robots and humans work together in an apprenticeship relationship.
In this context, RoboTwin’s robotics devices, for instance, enact a human-robot interaction in which humans act as teachers for robots. According to this company, this enables us to capitalise on both the increased efficiency of robots and human expertise. Dr. Dacal-Nieto, on the other hand, highlighted the emergence of human-centric factories in which robots act as assistants for humans in various work settings. Thus, human augmentation through robotics, rather than automation, was considered the future of production in the new industry 5.0.
During the workshop, the audience had the opportunity to discuss at length the advantages and challenges of robotics for agile production. Human oversight emerged as a key concern in human-robot interaction both to ensure a safe work environment and build trust and reliability. This, in turn, would have socio-economic repercussions, increasing demand for skilled workers who can program robots. Therefore, employees will feel the need to not only re-skill but also up-skill themselves, which will require support from the public and private sectors alike.
The legal concerns regarding the integration of robotics in agile production processes centred around data protection and intellectual property. The need for a shared ethical understanding and certain basic, context-specific ethical principles was emphasised by the audience to create a safe work environment. Overall, interdisciplinary collaboration between robot developers, workers, governments and policymakers was deemed fundamental to ensure the responsible adoption of robotics for agile production.
In the second of our digital workshop series on the 22nd of August, we will dwell on the importance of community building for the responsible integration of robotics solutions in agile production.
The goal of the Robotics4EU project is to promote the more widespread adoption of AI-based robots in Europe. In this workshop, the collaboration with innovators, researchers, citizens, and decision-makers working in agile production, helped raise awareness of non-technological aspects of robotics among stakeholders. For Robotics4EU, this workshop has been a really interesting way to learn about sector-specific challenges while gaining feedback on the RoboCompass.
Authors: Öznur Karakas (NTNU), Silvia Ecclesia (NTNU)