Pallet Trucks UK has urged materials handling professionals not to be alarmed by a futuristic new project that could see them sharing their workplaces with autonomous robotic workers in the future.
The new ILIAD (Intra-Logistics with Integrated Automatic Deployment) project has been devised by scientists to create entire new fleets of robots called AGVs (automatic guidance vehicles) which will perform tasks such as transporting goods on forklift trucks and pallet jacks as well palletising duties.
Phil Chesworth, Pallet Trucks UK Managing Director, said: “News such as this naturally causes alarm amongst people who may work with forklifts or pallet jacks on a daily basis; who wants their job to be taken by a robot?
“It’s for this reason we’d like to remind workers in our field the focus of the ILIAD project is to create fleets of robots to work alongside humans, not replace them. Secondly, the project is still very much in its research phase at the moment, so don’t expect to be turning up to work and meeting a new robotic colleague anytime soon.”
A key requirement of the ILIAD project is that the robots will be ‘self-aware’ and able to detect, track and predict the behaviour of their human counterparts, and work with them to speed up processes and increase efficiency. Each AGV will also be self-optimizing and able to learn from its own collected data, making fleets of the new AI workers fully scaleable with the option of adding new ones to the fleet at any time.
ILIAD has been developed by robotics specialists from the UK, Sweden, Italy and Germany as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 fund, and includes the collaboration of experts from universities across the continent.
Phil added: “The emergence of a new robotic workforce could actually be beneficial to us as it may create less strenuous work for humans and mean fewer injuries for forklift drivers and materials handling professionals.
“The rise of AI will also create new jobs in itself as there will need to be a whole new wave of repair specialists to fix the robots when faults and malfunctions occur, so it’s certainly nothing to be worried about in the foreseeable future.”
Although the aim of ILIAD is to create robots able to work in a multitude of industries, the AGVs are to be initially trialled in the food sector due to its challenging requirements including short shelf-life products, high wastage costs and traceability needs.
Pallet Trucks UK currently supplies a vast variety of manual handling equipment to the food sector such as forklift fork extensions and hand pallet trucks, as well as a wide range of other materials handling goods such as moving skates, sack trucks and lift tables.