Management Consulting/Operations Management
QUESTION: Hello Sir
Thank you for your answer to my previous questions. Very useful in helping me understand.
Need some assistance with the below
How will you manage operations processes of your firm by introducing robots in place of human and then achieving customer demands with less financial burden?
Prepare a Project Initiation Kick Off Plan for a residential flat scheme (5 storey, 30 apartments, 3 BHK)/or a 1000 seated indoor stadium. Establish the objectives and scope of the project; it is first necessary to identify the overall reason for the project by relating it to one or more objectives of the organization.
ANSWER: My apology for the delay.
As I have some health problem,
I will send the answers later.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Thankyou Sir for always being supportive and helpful. Get Well Soon and hers's to speedy recoverym
PLEASE SEE THE ANSWER FOR Q1
BALANCE ANSWER FOR Q1 AND Q2 ANSWER WILL BE SENT ASAP
A Framework for Managing Operations
Managing operations can be enclosed in a frame of general management function .
Operation managers are concerned with planning, organizing, and controlling the activities which affect human behaviour through models.
Activities that establishes a course of action and guide future decision-making is planning.
The operations manager defines the objectives for the operations subsystem of the organization,
and the policies, and procedures for achieving the objectives. This stage includes clarifying the
role and focus of operations in the organization’s overall strategy. It also involves product
planning, facility designing and using the conversion process.
Activities that establishes a structure of tasks and authority. Operation managers establish a
structure of roles and the flow of information within the operations subsystem. They determine
the activities required to achieve the goals and assign authority and responsibility for carrying
Activities that assure the actual performance in accordance with planned performance. To
ensure that the plans for the operations subsystems are accomplished, the operations manager
must exercise control by measuring actual outputs and comparing them to planned operations
management. Controlling costs, quality, and schedules are the important functions here.
Operation managers are concerned with how their efforts to plan, organize, and control affect
human behaviour. They also want to know how the behaviour of subordinates can affect management’s planning, organizing, and controlling actions. Their interest lies in decision-making
As operation managers plan, organise, and control the conversion process, they encounter many
problems and must make many decisions. They can simplify their difficulties using models like
aggregate planning models for examining how best to use existing capacity in short-term, break even analysis to identify break even volumes, linear programming and computer
simulation for capacity utilisation, decision tree analysis for long-term capacity problem of
facility expansion, simple median model for determining best locations of facilities etc.
Objectives of Operations Management
Objectives of operations management can be categorized into customer service and resource utilization.
The first objective of operating systems is the customer service to the satisfaction of customer
wants. Therefore, customer service is a key objective of operations management. The operating
system must provide something to a specification which can satisfy the customer in terms of cost
and timing. Thus, primary objective can be satisfied by providing the ‘right thing at a right price
at the right time’.
These aspects of customer service—specification, cost and timing—are described for four functions . They are the principal sources of customer satisfaction and must, therefore,
be the principal dimension of the customer service objective for operations managers.
Aspects of customer service
Principal customer wants
Primary considerations -- Other considerations
Manufacture Goods of a given, requested or Cost, i.e., purchase price or cost of obtaining goods.
acceptable specification Timing, i.e., delivery delay from order or request to receipt of goods.
Transport Management of a given, requested Cost, i.e., cost of movements. Timing, i.e.,
or acceptable specification 1. Duration or time to move.
Wait or delay from requesting to its commencement.
Supply Goods of a given, requested or Cost, i.e., purchase price or cost of obtaining acceptable specification goods.
Timing, i.e., delivery delay from order or request
to receipt of goods.
Service Treatment of a given, requested or Cost, i.e., cost of movements.
acceptable specification Timing, i.e.,
1. Duration or time required for treatment.
2. Wait or delay from requesting treatment to
Generally an organization will aim reliably and consistently to achieve certain standards and operations manager will be influential in attempting to achieve these standards. Hence, this
objective will influence the operations manager’s decisions to achieve the required customer service.
Another major objective of operating systems is to utilise resources for the satisfaction of customer wants effectively, i.e., customer service must be provided with the achievement of
effective operations through efficient use of resources. Inefficient use of resources or inadequate
customer service leads to commercial failure of an operating system.
Operations management is concerned essentially with the utilisation of resources, i.e., obtaining
maximum effect from resources or minimising their loss, under utilisation or waste. The extent of the utilisation of the resources’ potential might be expressed in terms of the proportion of available time used or occupied, space utilisation, levels of activity, etc. Each measure indicates
the extent to which the potential or capacity of such resources is utilised. This is referred as the objective of resource utilisation.
Operations management is also concerned with the achievement of both satisfactory customer service and resource utilisation. An improvement in one will often give rise to deterioration in the other. Often both cannot be maximised, and hence a satisfactory performance must be achieved
on both objectives. All the activities of operations management must be tackled with these two objectives in mind, and many of the problems will be faced by operations managers because of
this conflict. Hence, operations managers must attempt to balance these basic objectives.
summarises the twin objectives of operations management. The type of balance established both between and within these basic objectives will be influenced by market considerations, competitions, the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, etc. Hence, the operations managers should make a contribution when these objectives are set.
The customer service objective.
To provide agreed/adequate levels of customer
service (and hence customer satisfaction) by
providing goods or services with the right
specification, at the right cost and at the right time.
The resource utilisation objective. To achieve
adequate levels of resource utilisation (or
productivity) e.g., to achieve agreed levels of
utilisation of materials, machines and labour.
locally. Also, they must have a good understanding of their competitors. Some other important
challenges of managing multinational operations include other languages and customs, different management style, unfamiliar laws and regulations, and different costs.
SCOPE OF PRODUCTION AND OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT
Production and operations management concern with the conversion of inputs into outputs, using physical resources, so as to provide the desired utilities to the customer while meeting the other organizational objectives of effectiveness, efficiency and adoptability. It distinguishes itself from
other functions such as personnel, marketing, finance, etc., by its primary concern for ‘conversion by using physical resources.’ Following are the activities which are listed under production and operations management functions:
1. Location of facilities
2. Plant layouts and material handling
3. Product design
4. Process design
5. Production and planning control
6. Quality control
7. Materials management
8. Maintenance management.
LOCATION OF FACILITIES
Location of facilities for operations is a long-term capacity decision which involves a long term
commitment about the geographically static factors that affect a business organization. It is an
important strategic level decision-making for an organization. It deals with the questions such as
‘where our main operations should be based?’
The selection of location is a key-decision as large investment is made in building plant and machinery. An improper location of plant may lead to waste of all the investments made in plant
and machinery equipments. Hence, location of plant should be based on the company’s expansion plan and policy, diversification plan for the products, changing sources of raw materials and many other factors. The purpose of the location study is to find the optimal location that will results
in the greatest advantage to the organization.
PLANT LAYOUT AND MATERIAL HANDLING
Plant layout refers to the physical arrangement of facilities. It is the configuration of departments, work centres and equipment in the conversion process. The overall objective of the plant layout
is to design a physical arrangement that meets the required output quality and quantity most economically.
According to James Moore, “Plant layout is a plan of an optimum arrangement of facilities including personnel, operating equipment, storage space, material handling
equipments and all other supporting services along with the design of best structure to contain all these facilities”.
‘Material Handling’ refers to the ‘moving of materials from the store room to the machine and from one machine to the next during the process of manufacture’. It is also defined as the
‘art and science of moving, packing and storing of products in any form’. It is a specialized activity for a modern manufacturing concern, with 50 to 75% of the cost of production. This cost can be reduced by proper section, operation and maintenance of material handling devices.
Material handling devices increases the output, improves quality, speeds up the deliveries and decreases the cost of production. Hence, material handling is a prime consideration in the designing new plant and several existing plants.
Product design deals with conversion of ideas into reality. Every business organization have to design, develop and introduce new products as a survival and growth strategy. Developing the
new products and launching them in the market is the biggest challenge faced by the organizations.
The entire process of need identification to physical manufactures of product involves three
functions: marketing, product development, manufacturing.
Product development translates the
needs of customers given by marketing into technical specifications and designing the various
features into the product to these specifications. Manufacturing has the responsibility of selecting the processes by which the product can be manufactured. Product design and development
provides link between marketing, customer needs and expectations and the activities required to
manufacture the product.
Process design is a macroscopic decision-making of an overall process route for converting the raw material into finished goods. These decisions encompass the selection of a process, choice of technology, process flow analysis and layout of the facilities. Hence, the important decisions
in process design are to analyse the workflow for converting raw material into finished product
and to select the workstation for each included in the workflow.
PRODUCTION PLANNING AND CONTROL
Production planning and control can be defined as the process of planning the production in advance,
setting the exact route of each item, fixing the starting and finishing dates for each item, to give
production orders to shops and to follow up the progress of products according to orders.
The principle of production planning and control lies in the statement ‘First Plan Your Work and then Work on Your Plan’. Main functions of production planning and control includes
planning, routing, scheduling, dispatching and follow-up.
Planning is deciding in advance what to do, how to do it, when to do it and who is to do it. Planning bridges the gap from where we are, to where we want to go. It makes it possible
for things to occur which would not otherwise happen.
Routing may be defined as the selection of path which each part of the product will follow, which being transformed from raw material to finished products. Routing determines the most
advantageous path to be followed from department to department and machine to machine till
raw material gets its final shape.
Scheduling determines the programme for the operations. Scheduling may be defined as ‘the fixation of time and date for each operation’ as well as it determines the sequence of
operations to be followed.
Scope of production and operations management
Dispatching is concerned with the starting the processes. It gives necessary authority so as to start a particular work, which has already been planned under ‘Routing’ and ‘Scheduling’.
Therefore, dispatching is ‘release of orders and instruction for the starting of production for any item in acceptance with the route sheet and schedule charts’.
The function of follow-up is to report daily the progress of work in each shop in a prescribed proforma and to investigate the causes of deviations from the planned performance.
Quality Control (QC) may be defined as ‘a system that is used to maintain a desired level of quality in a product or service’. It is a systematic control of various factors that affect the quality
of the product. Quality control aims at prevention of defects at the source, relies on effective feed back system and corrective action procedure.
Quality control can also be defined as ‘that industrial management technique by means of which
product of uniform acceptable quality is manufactured’. It is the entire collection of activities which
ensures that the operation will produce the optimum quality products at minimum cost.
The main objectives of quality control are:
_ To improve the companies income by making the production more acceptable to the customers i.e., by providing long life, greater usefulness, maintainability, etc.
_ To reduce companies cost through reduction of losses due to defects.
_ To achieve interchangeability of manufacture in large scale production.
_ To produce optimal quality at reduced price.
_ To ensure satisfaction of customers with productions or services or high quality level, to
build customer goodwill, confidence and reputation of manufacturer.
_ To make inspection prompt to ensure quality control.
_ To check the variation during manufacturing.
Materials management is that aspect of management function which is primarily concerned with
the acquisition, control and use of materials needed and flow of goods and services connected
with the production process having some predetermined objectives in view.
The main objectives of materials management are:
_ To minimise material cost.
_ To purchase, receive, transport and store materials efficiently and to reduce the related cost.
_ To cut down costs through simplification, standardisation, value analysis, import substitution, etc.
_ To trace new sources of supply and to develop cordial relations with them in order to
ensure continuous supply at reasonable rates.
_ To reduce investment tied in the inventories for use in other productive purposes and to
develop high inventory turnover ratios.
In modern industry, equipment and machinery are a very important part of the total productive
effort. Therefore, their idleness or downtime becomes are very expensive. Hence, it is very
important that the plant machinery should be properly maintained.
The main objectives of maintenance management are:
1. To achieve minimum breakdown and to keep the plant in good working condition at the
lowest possible cost.
2. To keep the machines and other facilities in such a condition that permits them to be used
at their optimal capacity without interruption.
3. To ensure the availability of the machines, buildings and services required by other sections
of the factory for the performance of their functions at optimal return on investment.
THE OPERATION MANAGEMENT IS A
THIS IS FOR A OPERATION/ PRODUCTION SET UP.
OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT [ PRODUCTION ], as a function ,normally includes the
-TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT
-JUST IN TIME INVENTORY MANAGEMENT
-STRATEGIC CAPACITY PLANNING
-PROJECT PLANNING AND CONTROL
-MATERIAL REQUIREMENT PLANNING [ MRP]
-BUSINESS PROCESS ENGINEERING
ETC ETC ETC
THE INTEGRATED FUNCTION BRINGS IN A NUMBER OF ADVANTAGES TO THE
*Manage and Control the logistics function to ensure supplies of
raw materials, finished goods, parts and accessories are
available within required time frames and budgets.
*With the Planning & Production Manager, develop, direct the
implementation of production business strategies and activities
to enable the production to achieve output and quality objectives.
*With the R&D Engineering Manager, develop, direct the
the research & development/ engineering activities to ensure
products and techniques achieve business needs within the
standards set by the market and the regulatory standards bodies.
*With the Demand Planning Manager, develop, direct and control
the supply activities to maximise the quality and reliability
of raw materials, parts, accessories and finished goods.
*With the Warehouse and Distribution Manager, develop, direct
and control the warehouse and distribution activities to
ensure the efficient and economical utilisation of facilities
for storing and distributing the finished goods.
*Wtih the Manufacturing Services Manager, develop, direct the
implementation of manufacturing sustainability strategies/
actions plans and continuous improvement programs.
*Wtih the Factory Services Manager, develop, direct the
service operations and the factory warehousing management
THE BELOW LISTED ELEMENTS IN THE OPERATION SHOW
CLEARLY HOW THE ''CUSTOMER SERVICE'' / ''PACKAGING'' /
''PRODUCTION SCHEDULING'' ARE INTERLINKED FUNCTIONALLY
IN THE PROCESS OF OPERATION.
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF EACH OF THESE ELEMENTS ARE
IMPROVED THROUGH ''ACTION PLANNING''.
-demand planning for core products
-demand planning for parts/accessories
-demand planning for critical items
-developing product life cycle trends
-product life cycle forecast for new products
-remove stock shortages
-improve inventory levels.
-quicker stock replenishment
-continual stock replenishment
-reduction in lead time
-improving stock availability
-reduction working capital
-better supply coordination
-more effective communication with supplier
-faster / timely communication
-developing supplier profile
-developing suppliers networking
-customer focused inventory building
-logistical lead time reduction
-demand based inventory
-better material availability
-good/ usable inventory levels
5.MANUFACTURING/ PACKAGING INCLUDES
-elimination of wastages in production
-improving throughput effiiciency
-reducing back orders
-improving targeted delivery date
-reduction in logical leadtime
-full stock availability
-full total inventory
-full stock / range availability
-short--response time to query
-shortening order cycle time
-making targeted delivery date
-providing order status
-order fill rate
-backorder by age
-service/ parts availability
-targeted delivery date
-improve order fill rate
-improve on-time delivery
-reduce shipment delays
-timely order status
-timely delivery status.
THE EFFECTIVE OPERATION AIMS TO MAXIMIZE THE COMPANY RESULTS
-IMPROVING CUSTOMER SERVICE
-ADDS VALUE TO CUSTOMER SERVICE
-TAILORING SERVICE TO CUSTOMER REQUIREMENTS
-LEVERAGING OPPORTUNITIES T O BETTER RESULTS.
THE OPERATION MANAGEMENT IMPROVES THE EFFECIVENESS
-IMPROVING MATERIAL FLOWS
-REDUCE RAW MATERIAL INVENTORY LEVELS
-REDUCING PURCHASING COST
-REDUCE FREIGHT COST
-REDUCE OBSOLETE STOCK LEVELS
-IMPROVING WAREHOUSING OPERATIONS EFFICIENCY
-OPTIMISE STOCK LEVELS
-REDUCE LEAD TIME
-REDUCE TOTAL INVENTORY LEVELS
-REDUCE FINISHED STOCKS
-IMPROVE DEMAND FORECASTING
-IMPROVE MATERIAL RESOURCE PLANNING
THE BELOW LISTED ELEMENTS SHOWS HOW THE ELEMENTS
ARE CHAINED / LINKED IN THE OPERATION.
1 Daily production and distribution planning, including all nodes in the supply chain.
2 Production scheduling for each manufacturing facility in the supply chain (minute by minute).
3 Demand planning and forecasting, coordinating the demand forecast of all customers and sharing the forecast with all suppliers.
4 Sourcing planning, including current inventory and forecast demand, in collaboration with all suppliers.
5 Inbound operations, including transportation from suppliers and receiving inventory.
6 Production operations, including the consumption of materials and flow of finished goods.
7 Outbound operations, including all fulfillment activities and transportation to customers.
8 Order promising, accounting for all constraints in the supply chain, including all suppliers, manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, and other customers.
9 Performance tracking of all activities
ALL THESE INTERLINKED INTEGRATION
-better sales results
-better return on investment.
ROLE OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR IN OPERATION MANAGEMENT.
Organizational Behavior (OB) is the study and application of knowledge about how people, individuals, and groups act in organizations. It does this by taking a SYSTEM APPROACH . That is, it interprets people-organization relationships in terms of the whole person, whole group, whole organization, and whole social system. Its purpose is to build better relationships by achieving human objectives, organizational objectives, and social objectives.
As you can see from the definition above, organizational behavior encompasses a wide range of topics, such as human behavior, change, leadership, teams, etc.
Elements of Organizational Behavior
The organization's base rests on management's philosophy, values, vision and goals. This in turn drives the organizational culture which is composed of the formal organization, informal organization, and the social environment. The culture determines the type of leadership, communication, and group dynamics within the organization. The workers perceive this as the quality of work life which directs their degree of motivation. The final outcome are performance, individual satisfaction, and personal growth and development. All these elements combine to build the model or framework that the organization operates from.
FROM THE ABOVE ANALYSIS, YOU WILL SEE THAT THE SUCCESS OF OPERATION MANAGEMENT MUCH DEPENDS ON THE APPLICATION OF MANAGEMENT
AND THE ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR.
Because humans require resources like sleep, nutrition and mental stimulation to be fully functional, robots have replaced people on many assembly lines with great success.
Precision and Efficiency
o It is a well-founded scientific fact that no matter how focused the individual may be, a human being will always fatigue both physically and mentally during long hours of intense physical or mental exertion, like that found on an assembly line. Robots, however, require no breaks to rest, nor do they grow weary and uncoordinated after 10 hours of ceaseless labor. A robot can be left to do its job for much longer hours than humans can manage without losing quality in their work, especially during precise operations such as soldering microchips.
o A manufacturing robot can seem unbelievably expensive at first. There's the cost of the machine itself, plus the operating software and hardware, and the installation to pay for. When compared to hiring and maintaining a human worker, however, the long-term cost comparison favors an automated workplace. Robots do not require pension, paid vacation, sick leave, maternity leave, benefits, severance pay, or indeed, any pay at all. Nor are you likely to hear a robot ask for a raise or talk about joining that local union that’s been giving you trouble. In the end, a robotic worker pays for itself and beyond, while a human one requires a constant stream of company resources as upkeep.
Ease of Exchange/Upgrade
o If an application comes into your company from someone who is better qualified, better educated or otherwise superior to one of your human workers, you are faced with a dilemma. While hiring the new person would be the correct move for your company, it would require first removing the existing worker from his post. Aside from the tedious paperwork and general upheaval this can cause, it is also a terrible blow to a person’s ego and financial situation, is generally seen as unfair by the existing worker. It can result in unlawful-termination lawsuits, or other problems.
A robot, however, can be purchased, worked, upgraded and exchanged for a better model at will without having to worry about severance packages or angry employees. In addition, the replacement of one human worker tends to upset the others, which can result in the loss of company personnel resources because of fear of job loss. In contrast, you can replace a robot without causing a panic among the other employees, robotic or otherwise.
How will you manage operations processes of your firm by introducing robots in place of human
Robot is the branch of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science that deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. These technologies deal with automated machines that can take the place of humans in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes, or resemble humans in appearance, behavior, and/or cognition. Many of today's robots are inspired by nature contributing to the field of bio-inspired robotics.
There are many types of robots; they are used in many different environments and for many different uses, although being very diverse in application and form they all share three basic similarities when it comes to their construction.
First: Robots all have some kind of mechanical construction, a frame, form or shape that usually is the solution/result for a set task or problem. For example, if you want a robot to travel across heavy dirt or mud, you might think to use tracker treads, so the form of your robot might be a box with tracker treads. The treads being the mechanical construction for traveling across the problem of heavy mud or dirt. This mechanical aspect usually deals with a real world application of an object or of itself, example lifting, moving, carrying, flying, swimming, running, walking...etc. The mechanical aspect is mostly the creator's solution to completing the assign task and dealing with the physics of the environment around it, example: gravity, friction, resistance...etc. Form follows function.
Second: Robots have an electrical aspect to them in them, in the form of wires, sensors, circuits, batteries …etc. Example: the tracker tread robot that was mentioned earlier will need some kind of power to actually move the tracker treads. That power comes in the form of electricity, which will have to travel through a wire and originate from a battery, a basic electrical circuit. Even gas powered machines that get their power mainly from gas still require an electrical current to start the gas using process which is why most gas powered machines like cars, have batteries. The electrical aspect of robots is used for movement: as in the control of motors which are used mostly were motion is needed. Sensing: electrical signals are used to determine things like heat, sound, position, and energy status. Operation: robots need some level of electrical energy supplied to their motors and/or sensors in order to be turned on, and do basic operations.
A level of programing
Third: All robots contain some level of computer programming (code). A program is how a robot decides when or how to do something. For example: what if you wanted the tractor tread robot (from our previous examples) to move across a muddy road, even though it has the correct mechanical construction, and it receives the correct amount of power from its battery, it doesn’t go anywhere. Why? What actually tells the robot to move? A program. Even if you had a remote control and you pushed a button telling it to move forward it will still need a program relating the button you pushed to the action of moving forward. Programs are the core essence of a robot, it could have excellent mechanical/electrical construction, but if its program is poorly constructed its performance will be very poor or it may not perform at all. There are three different types of robotic programs, RC, AI and hybrid. RC stands for Remote Control, a robot with this type of program has a preexisting set of commands that it will only do if and when it receives a signal from a control source, most of the time the control source is a human being with a remote control. AI stand for artificial Intelligence, robots with this kind of programing interact with their environment on their own without a control source. Robots with AI create solutions to objects/problems they encounter by using their preexisting programing to decide, understand, learn and/or create. Hybrid is a form of program that incorporates both AI and RC functions, For example: your robot may work completely on its own, encounter a problem, come up with two solutions like an AI system, and then rely completely on you to decide what to do like a RC system. Robots have three aspect of construction mechanical, electrical and programing.
At present mostly (lead-acid) batteries are used as a power source. Many different types of batteries can be used as a power source for robots. They range from lead acid batteries which are safe and have relatively long shelf lives but are rather heavy to silver cadmium batteries that are much smaller in volume and are currently much more expensive. Designing a battery powered robot needs to take into account factors such as safety, cycle lifetime and weight. Generators, often some type of internal combustion engine, can also be used. However, such designs are often mechanically complex and need fuel, require heat dissipation and are relatively heavy. A tether connecting the robot to a power supply would remove the power supply from the robot entirely. This has the advantage of saving weight and space by moving all power generation and storage components elsewhere. However, this design does come with the drawback of constantly having a cable connected to the robot, which can be difficult to manage. Potential power sources could be:
• pneumatic (compressed gases)
• hydraulics (liquids)
• flywheel energy storage
• organic garbage (through anaerobic digestion)
• faeces (human, animal); may be interesting in a military context as faeces of small combat groups may be reused for the energy requirements of the robot assistant
A robotic leg powered by air muscles
Actuators are like the "muscles" of a robot, the parts which convert stored energy into movement. By far the most popular actuators are electric motors that spin a wheel or gear, and linear actuators that control industrial robots in factories. But there are some recent advances in alternative types of actuators, powered by electricity, chemicals, or compressed air.
The vast majority of robots use electric motors, often brushed and brushless DC motors in portable robots or AC motors in industrial robots and CNC machines. These motors are often preferred in systems with lighter loads, and where the predominant form of motion is rotational.
Various types of linear actuators move in and out instead of by spinning, and often have quicker direction changes, particularly when very large forces are needed such as with industrial robotics. They are typically powered by compressed air (pneumatic actuator) or an oil (hydraulic actuator).
Series elastic actuators
A spring can be designed as part of the motor actuator, to allow improved force control. It has been used in various robots, particularly walking humanoid robots.
Pneumatic artificial muscles, also known as air muscles, are special tubes that contract (typically up to 40%) when air is forced inside them. They have been used for some robot applications.
Muscle wire, also known as Shape Memory Alloy, Nitinol or Flexinol Wire, is a material that contracts slightly (typically under 5%) when electricity runs through it. They have been used for some small robot applications.
EAPs or EPAMs are a new plastic material that can contract substantially (up to 380% activation strain) from electricity, and have been used in facial muscles and arms of humanoid robots,[ and to allow new robots to float,[ fly, swim or walk.[
Recent alternatives to DC motors are piezo motors or ultrasonic motors. These work on a fundamentally different principle, whereby tiny piezoceramic elements, vibrating many thousands of times per second, cause linear or rotary motion. There are different mechanisms of operation; one type uses the vibration of the piezo elements to walk the motor in a circle or a straight line.[ Another type uses the piezo elements to cause a nut to vibrate and drive a screw. The advantages of these motors are nanometer resolution, speed, and available force for their size. These motors are already available commercially, and being used on some robots.
Elastic nanotubes are a promising artificial muscle technology in early-stage experimental development. The absence of defects in carbon nanotubes enables these filaments to deform elastically by several percent, with energy storage levels of perhaps 10 J/cm3 for metal nanotubes. Human biceps could be replaced with an 8 mm diameter wire of this material. Such compact "muscle" might allow future robots to outrun and outjump humans.
Sensors allow robots to receive information about a certain measurement of the environment, or internal components. This is essential for robots to perform their tasks, and act upon any changes in the environment to calculate the appropriate response. They are used for various forms of measurements, to give the robots warnings about safety or malfunctions, and to provide real time information of the task it is performing.
Current robotic and prosthetic hands receive far less tactile information than the human hand. Recent research has developed a tactile sensor array that mimics the mechanical properties and touch receptors of human fingertips. The sensor array is constructed as a rigid core surrounded by conductive fluid contained by an elastomeric skin. Electrodes are mounted on the surface of the rigid core and are connected to an impedance-measuring device within the core. When the artificial skin touches an object the fluid path around the electrodes is deformed, producing impedance changes that map the forces received from the object. The researchers expect that an important function of such artificial fingertips will be adjusting robotic grip on held objects.
SmartHand, which functions like a real one—allowing patients to write with it, type on a keyboard, play piano and perform other fine movements. The prosthesis has sensors which enable the patient to sense real feeling in its fingertips.
Computer vision is the science and technology of machines that see. As a scientific discipline, computer vision is concerned with the theory behind artificial systems that extract information from images. The image data can take many forms, such as video sequences and views from cameras.
In most practical computer vision applications, the computers are pre-programmed to solve a particular task, but methods based on learning are now becoming increasingly common.
Computer vision systems rely on image sensors which detect electromagnetic radiation which is typically in the form of either visible light or infra-red light. The sensors are designed using solid-state physics. The process by which light propagates and reflects off surfaces is explained using optics. Sophisticated image sensors even require quantum mechanics to provide a complete understanding of the image formation process. Robots can also be equipped with multiple vision sensors to be better able to compute the sense of depth in the environment. Like human eyes, robots' "eyes" must also be able to focus on a particular area of interest, and also adjust to variations in light intensities.
There is a subfield within computer vision where artificial systems are designed to mimic the processing and behavior of biological system, at different levels of complexity. Also, some of the learning-based methods developed within computer vision have their background in biology.
Robots need to manipulate objects; pick up, modify, destroy, or otherwise have an effect. Thus the "hands" of a robot are often referred to as end effectors,[ while the "arm" is referred to as a manipulator.] Most robot arms have replaceable effectors, each allowing them to perform some small range of tasks. Some have a fixed manipulator which cannot be replaced, while a few have one very general purpose manipulator, for example a humanoid hand.
One of the most common effectors is the gripper. In its simplest manifestation it consists of just two fingers which can open and close to pick up and let go of a range of small objects. Fingers can for example be made of a chain with a metal wire run through it. Hands that resemble and work more like a human hand include the Shadow Hand, the Robonaut hand,[ ... Hands that are of a mid-level complexity include the Delft hand. Mechanical grippers can come in various types, including friction and encompassing jaws. Friction jaws use all the force of the gripper to hold the object in place using friction. Encompassing jaws cradle the object in place, using less friction.
Vacuum grippers are very simple astrictive devices, but can hold very large loads provided the prehension surface is smooth enough to ensure suction.
Pick and place robots for electronic components and for large objects like car windscreens, often use very simple vacuum grippers.
General purpose effectors
Some advanced robots are beginning to use fully humanoid hands, like the Shadow Hand, MANUS, and the Schunk hand. These are highly dexterous manipulators, with as many as 20 degrees of freedom and hundreds of tactile sensors.
For simplicity most mobile robots have four wheels or a number of continuous tracks. Some researchers have tried to create more complex wheeled robots with only one or two wheels. These can have certain advantages such as greater efficiency and reduced parts, as well as allowing a robot to navigate in confined places that a four wheeled robot would not be able to.
Two-wheeled balancing robots
Balancing robots generally use a gyroscope to detect how much a robot is falling and then drive the wheels proportionally in the same direction, to counterbalance the fall at hundreds of times per second, based on the dynamics of an inverted pendulum.
One-wheeled balancing robots
A one-wheeled balancing robot is an extension of a two-wheeled balancing robot so that it can move in any 2D direction using a round ball as its only wheel. Several one-wheeled balancing robots have been designed recently, such as Carnegie Mellon University's "Ballbot" that is the approximate height and width of a person, and Tohoku Gakuin University's "BallIP".[ Because of the long, thin shape and ability to maneuver in tight spaces, they have the potential to function better than other robots in environments with people.[
Walking applied to robots
Walking is a difficult and dynamic problem to solve. Several robots have been made which can walk reliably on two legs, however none have yet been made which are as robust as a human
Dynamic balancing (controlled falling}
A more advanced way for a robot to walk is by using a dynamic balancing algorithm, which is potentially more robust than the Zero Moment Point technique, as it constantly monitors the robot's motion, and places the feet in order to maintain stability.
Perhaps the most promising approach utilizes passive dynamics where the momentum of swinging limbs is used for greater efficiency. It has been shown that totally unpowered humanoid mechanisms can walk down a gentle slope, using only gravity to propel themselves. Using this technique, a robot need only supply a small amount of motor power to walk along a flat surface or a little more to walk up a hill. This technique promises to make walking robots at least ten times more efficient than ZMP walkers, like ASIMO.
If robots are to work effectively in homes and other non-industrial environments, the way they are instructed to perform their jobs, and especially how they will be told to stop will be of critical importance. The people who interact with them may have little or no training in robotics, and so any interface will need to be extremely intuitive. Science fiction authors also typically assume that robots will eventually be capable of communicating with humans through speech, gestures, and facial expressions, rather than a command-line interface. Although speech would be the most natural way for the human to communicate, it is unnatural for the robot. It will probably be a long time before robots interact as naturally as the fictional C-3PO.
Interpreting the continuous flow of sounds coming from a human, in real time, is a difficult task for a computer, mostly because of the great variability of speech. The same word, spoken by the same person may sound different depending on local acoustics, volume, the previous word, whether or not the speaker has a cold, etc.. It becomes even harder when the speaker has a different accent. Currently, the best systems can recognize continuous, natural speech, up to 160 words per minute, with an accuracy of 95%.
Other hurdles exist when allowing the robot to use voice for interacting with humans. For social reasons, synthetic voice proves suboptimal as a communication medium, making it necessary to develop the emotional component of robotic voice through various techniques.
One can imagine, in the future, explaining to a robot chef how to make a pastry, or asking directions from a robot police officer. In both of these cases, making hand gestures would aid the verbal descriptions. In the first case, the robot would be recognizing gestures made by the human, and perhaps repeating them for confirmation. In the second case, the robot police officer would gesture to indicate "down the road, then turn right". It is likely that gestures will make up a part of the interaction between humans and robots. A great many systems have been developed to recognize human hand gestures.
Facial expressions can provide rapid feedback on the progress of a dialog between two humans, and soon may be able to do the same for humans and robots. Robotic faces have been constructed by Hanson Robotics using their elastic polymer called Frubber, allowing a large number of facial expressions due to the elasticity of the rubber facial coating and embedded subsurface motors (servos). The coating and servos are built on a metal skull. A robot should know how to approach a human, judging by their facial expression and body language. Whether the person is happy, frightened, or crazy-looking affects the type of interaction expected of the robot. Likewise, robots like Kismet and the more recent addition, Nexi can produce a range of facial expressions, allowing it to have meaningful social exchanges with humans.
Artificial emotions can also be generated, composed of a sequence of facial expressions and/or gestures. As can be seen from the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the programming of these artificial emotions is complex and requires a large amount of human observation. To simplify this programming in the movie, presets were created together with a special software program. This decreased the amount of time needed to make the film. These presets could possibly be transferred for use in real-life robots.
Many of the robots of science fiction have a personality, something which may or may not be desirable in the commercial robots of the future. Nevertheless, researchers are trying to create robots which appear to have a personality: i.e. they use sounds, facial expressions, and body language to try to convey an internal state, which may be joy, sadness, or fear. One commercial example is Pleo, a toy robot dinosaur, which can exhibit several apparent emotions.
The mechanical structure of a robot must be controlled to perform tasks. The control of a robot involves three distinct phases – perception, processing, and action (robotic paradigms). Sensors give information about the environment or the robot itself (e.g. the position of its joints or its end effector). This information is then processed to be stored or transmitted, and to calculate the appropriate signals to the actuators (motors) which move the mechanical.
The processing phase can range in complexity. At a reactive level, it may translate raw sensor information directly into actuator commands. Sensor fusion may first be used to estimate parameters of interest (e.g. the position of the robot's gripper) from noisy sensor data. An immediate task (such as moving the gripper in a certain direction) is inferred from these estimates. Techniques from control theory convert the task into commands that drive the actuators.
At longer time scales or with more sophisticated tasks, the robot may need to build and reason with a "cognitive" model. Cognitive models try to represent the robot, the world, and how they interact. Pattern recognition and computer vision can be used to track objects. Mapping techniques can be used to build maps of the world. Finally, motion planning and other artificial intelligence techniques may be used to figure out how to act. For example, a planner may figure out how to achieve a task without hitting obstacles, falling over, etc.
Control systems may also have varying levels of autonomy.
1. Direct interaction is used for haptic or tele-operated devices, and the human has nearly complete control over the robot's motion.
2. Operator-assist modes have the operator commanding medium-to-high-level tasks, with the robot automatically figuring out how to achieve them.
3. An autonomous robot may go for extended periods of time without human interaction. Higher levels of autonomy do not necessarily require more complex cognitive capabilities. For example, robots in assembly plants are completely autonomous, but operate in a fixed pattern.
Another classification takes into account the interaction between human control and the machine motions.
1. Teleoperation. A human controls each movement, each machine actuator change is specified by the operator.
2. Supervisory. A human specifies general moves or position changes and the machine decides specific movements of its actuators.
3. Task-level autonomy. The operator specifies only the task and the robot manages itself to complete it.
4. Full autonomy. The machine will create and complete all its tasks without human interaction.
HOW TO FIT ROBOT INTO OPERATION
In order for humans and robots to work effectively together, they need to be able to converse about abilities, goals and
achievements. Thus, we are developing an interaction infrastructure
“Human-Robot Interaction Operating
The HRI/OS provides a structured
software framework for building human-robot teams, supports a variety of user interfaces, enables humans and robots
to engage in task-oriented dialogue, and facilitates integration
of robots through an extensible API.
human-robot interaction, interaction infrastructure, robot
architecture, multi-agent system
There are many forms of human-robot teams, each with
their own benefits and drawbacks. The most common form is teleoperation, in which a robot is used as a “tool”.
Although teleoperation is appropriate for extreme and unknown environments, it generally binds system capabilities
to the operator’s skill and performs poorly when communication is delayed or bandwidth-limited.
At the opposite end of the control spectrum are “autonomous” robot systems, in which the robot operates independently
to achieve high-level goals and the human functions as a monitor or supervisor.
Autonomous systems can
multiply effort (e.g., a single user commanding many robots)
and can function when the communication between human and robot is poor, but are often brittle and incapable of
handling unforeseen events.
Regardless of form, human-robot teams only perform well when humans and robots are able to work in a synergistic manner. In particular, system configurations that enable
humans and robots to communicate (conversing about goals, abilities, plans and achievements) and to collaborate (jointly
solving problems) are less brittle, more robust, and better
performing than those that do not.
1.1 Peer to peer humanrobot interaction
In our work, we are investigating how peer-to-peer
Humanrobot interaction (HRI)
can facilitate communication and
collaboration. We use the term “peer-to-peer” not because we expect humans and robots to have equal capabilities,
but to emphasize that idea that humans and robots should work as partners, i.e., that their work roles should be as balanced as possible.
To achieve peer-to-peer HRI, we are developing an interaction infrastructure that allows humans and robots to communicate
and work in a manner inspired by human teams.
In our system, for example, robots are able to ask task oriented questions of the human in order to obtain assistance
when they need help (e.g., when faced with a problem
beyond their autonomous capabilities).
A key feature of our approach is that humans and robots
coordinate their actions through dialogue. This helps contextual
and situational awareness to be maintained across
the team. Dialogue also enables humans and robots to support
one another. This allows better application of the different
strengths and capabilities of humans and robots, and
helps balance workload between team members.
An important issue that must be addressed with peer-to-peer
HRI is: how does the robot provide feedback regarding
its understanding of the situation and its actions?
In human-human teams, this feedback occurs through direct
communication (speech, text, body language), emotional
exchanges, etc. With human-robot teams, however, feedback
is generally provided through a user interface and lacks
the cues and pacing associated with human communication.
Thus, a peer-to-peer HRI system must provide mechanisms
to help human and robot communicate effectively.
1.2 A novel infrastructure for HRI
In the following sections, we present a novel interaction infrastructure,
the “Human-Robot Interaction Operating System”
(HRI/OS), which is inspired by the collaborative control
model. The HRI/OS is an agent-based system
that provides a structured framework and set of interaction services for human-robot teams. We have designed the
HRI/OS to facilitate the integration of a wide range of user interfaces and robots through an extensible API.
We begin by describing the types of tasks and the teamwork
model that the HRI/OS supports. We then discuss
the design of the HRI/OS: its agent-based structure and the
primary agents that comprise the system. Finally, we examine
the HRI/OS in practice, focusing on a use case involving multiple humans and robots.
2.1 Operational Tasks
The HRI/OS is designed to support the performance of operational tasks, which are tasks that are concrete, well defined,
narrow in scope and amenable to joint human-robot performance. In space exploration, for example, operational
tasks include: shelter and work hangar construction, piping
assembly and inspection, pressure vessel construction,
habitat inspection, and in-situ resource collection and transport.
A pragmatic approach to performing operational tasks
is to specify a high-level set of operations for humans and
robots to execute in parallel and then use interaction to provide
detail and to resolve problems that arise during execution.
This approach is similar to how human teams function,
particularly construction and maintenance work crews.
2.2 Teamwork Model
The teamwork model we uses assumes that each team
agent (human, robot, or software) has a set of skills and
resources that they contribute to the team. In the HRI/OS,
high-level tasks are delegated by a centralized executive to
embodied agents (human or robot), which it believes capable
of satisfying the task and who are not engaged in other work.
Agents execute these tasks, performing detailed planning
and monitoring as necessary.
During execution, if an agent finds that its skills or resources
prove to be inadequate to the task, it tries to resolve
the situation through dialogue (i.e., rather than immediately
reporting task failure). For example, a robot that has difficulty
interpreting camera data might ask a human to lend
his visual processing ability to the task. This often allows
tasks to be completed in spite of limitations of autonomy.
If a human requests assistance from a robot, the robot
suspends its task before responding. After providing assistance,
the robot then resumes the task. With our teamwork
model, a robot can only be interrupted by one human at a
time. That is, a human cannot interrupt a robot while it
is already providing assistance to another human. Instead,
the human must wait until the robot becomes available.
3.1 Agentbased architecture
The HRI/OS is an agent-based system that incorporates
embodied agents (humans and robots) and software agents. Embodied agents operate in the physical world
and describe their skills at a coarse level, rather than with
the detail typically used by robot planners. Software agents
do not directly change the environment and are designed to
provide limited services. For example, an agent that tracks
objects may provide pose information without handling coordinate
frame transformations, which could be provided by
other supporting agents. This design approach helps improve
flexibility while reducing system brittleness.
The current implementation uses the Open Agent Architecture
(OAA)for inter-agent communication and delegation.
Agents communicate via OAA messages, which are
delegated via a centralized facilitator. Direct, point-to-point
communication (used primarily to transport binary data) is
performed using the “ICE” middleware.
In general, when an agent makes a request to the HRI/OS,
it does not know which agent (or agents) will satisfy the
request. Such anonymity reinforces the concept of peer-topeer
HRI, since any agent making a request to the system
must necessarily treat humans and robots in the same manner.
Delegation is performed by OAA, assisted by a domainspecific
resource manager . In the current implmentation,
for example, the resource manager considers
spatial location to improve delegation of physical tasks.
In order for HRI to be productive, humans and robots
need to be able to communicate efficiently and effectively.
Consequently, the HRI/OS provides cognitive models and
spatial reasoning capabilities that allow humans to use natural,
spatial language (e.g., “move the light to the left of the
box”). Additionally, when a robot asks for help, it is important
that its request be given to a human with appropriate
expertise and ability to respond. Thus, the HRI/OS incorporates
an interaction manager , which takes
into consideration the human’s situation (workload, location,
available user interfaces, etc.) before involving him in
The HRI/OS is similar in some respects to interaction infrastructures
that support non-traditional human-computer
interaction. In particular, the HRI/OS provides
a variety services commonly associated with infrastructures,
such as data and event distribution to heteogeneous
clients. The HRI/OS, however, differs from infrastructures
because it uses a task delegation model and because the
“devices” (humans and robots) are embodied.
A number of HRI architectures have recently been proposed
for human-robot teams. The HRI/OS,
however, differs from these architectures in three significant
ways. First, the HRI/OS is explicitly designed to support
human-robot collaboration across multiple spatial ranges
and team configuration. Second, the HRI/OS assumes that
humans and robots will work on tasks in parallel, with only
loose coordination between them. Finally, the HRI/OS allows
robot control authority to pass between different users
(i.e., no operator has exclusive “ownership” of a robot) to
improve flexibility and situational response.
3.2 Task Manager
The Task Manager (TM) is responsible for coordinating
and managing the execution of operational tasks. It does
this by decomposing the overall goal of the system into highlevel
tasks, which are assigned to humans or robots for execution.
Only a single task is assigned to a given agent at a
time. Unlike traditional executives, the TM does not know
anything about low-level task details. Instead, it relies on
each agent to work in a distributed, independent manner,
managing and monitoring their own task execution.
The TM is implemented in the Task Description Language
: Decomposition of a welding task: panels 1
and 2 are mounted, the common seam is welded, and
then inspected. Parts of this task can be performed
in parallel; other parts require sequencing.
(TDL), a superset of C++ that allows for principled task
execution, coordination and management. TDL allows
the tasks to be represented with appropriate inter-task constraints,
such as serialization. For example, shows a
construction task in which two panels must both be mounted
before the seam between them can be welded and then inspected.
Such constraints are important because agents may
not be immediately available to perform tasks, or may need
to suspend execution in order to assist another agent.
To assign a task, the Task Manager contacts the Resource
Manager in order to find an agent capable of
performing the work. The RM either immediately assigns
the task to an agent, in which case the TM begins monitoring
the status of the task, or notifies the TM that no agent
is currently available. If this is the case, the TM waits until
some agent is available, then again makes its request.
The TM is designed to recover in the face of error or task
failure. If any task fails, the TM will create another instance
to retry the task. The TM also provides functionality for
reacting to feedback from a task via task monitoring. For
example, if the result of a weld inspection indicates that the
weld is inadequate, the TM will respawn another weld and
inspect pair, repeating this process until the inspect task
indicates that the weld has been successfully completed.
As currently implemented, the TM provides fairly simplistic
task management. One improvement would be for
the TM to work in conjunction with the Resource Manager
in order to predict agent availability. This would especially
be helpful when a human requests assistance and there are
multiple robots capable of performing the work, but who
are currently engaged on other tasks. Another improvement
would be for the TM to reassign a task whenever an agent
performing that task has to suspend execution (e.g., in order
to respond to dialogue).
3.3 Resource Manager
The Resource Manager (RM) processes all agent requests,
prioritizing the list of agents to be consulted when a task
needs to performed or a question answered. Unlike facilitation
in most agent systems, the RM performs delegation
using multiple criteria that vary with time and situation,
rather than simple capability match making. In particular,
in addition to request/capability matching, the RM considers
a variety of factors including availability, physical location,
workload, past performance, etc.
The current RM is implemented as a collection of OAA
Robot A: “I need help inspecting a weld.”
Robot Agent ! Interaction Manager:
comm request (Robot A, help, weld)
Interaction Manager ! Resource Manager:
agent request(help, weld)
Resource Manager ! Interaction Manager:
Interaction Manager ! User 1:
User 1 ! Interaction Manager:
Interaction Manager ! User 1:
comm request(Robot A, help, weld)
User 1 ! Interaction Manager:
comm response(Robot A, endpoint address)
Interaction Manager ! Robot A:
comm response(User 1, endpoint address)
Robot A and User 1 begin dialogue
Figure 3: Message exchange resulting from
“Robot A” requesting help.
meta-agents. Each meta-agent is limited in scope and reasons
only about a single criteria. This approach allows addition
of new criteria (i.e., as new meta-agents) without modification
of existing code, and thus is more flexible and extensible
than monolithic design. Specifically, domain and
goal specific knowledge and selection criteria can be added
(or removed) as needed.
In the future, we intend to add predictive capabilities to
the RM. One way to do this would be to employ a planner
that can reason about resource allocation and usage. This
would enable delegation to consider not only the current
availability and situation, but also estimated performance
(e.g., time required to service request).