Industry 5.0 Principles Animate Comau Advanced Automation Solutions

May 13, 2024
Live from Automate 2024, an inside look at how the automation specialist is putting people and society first.

Ten years on since the advent of Industry 4.0, first movers in the industrial space have begun to shift the automation conversation from the technology-centric digital transformation of workflows and Industrial Internet of Things connectivity to the empowerment of human workers and the advancement of societal goals, as described in nascent Industry 5.0 frameworks. 

Certainly, the new robots and AI-empowered solutions debuted by Comau at this week’s Automate 2024 conference and exposition in Chicago’s McCormick Place mark a unique approach to making advanced automation more intuitive and accessible to user in a broad swath of industries. (See accompanying video and companion article for more details.) And with more than 50 years’ experience in the automotive sector—one of most complex automation arenas in terms of processes, cycle times, flexibility requirements and technology rates—Comau is in a prime position to meet growing demands for sustainable automation, according to Chief Marketing Officer Stefania Ferrero. 

“This is particularly relevant in emerging sectors that have previously lacked automation,” she explained in a conversation earlier this week, on the first day of Automate. “We have built our experience in the world of automotive—traditionally very complex and highly automated. Now, Comau is harnessing the power of automation to drive increasingly complex manufacturing tasks all over the world.” In particular, she pointed to logistics &warehousing, hydrogen and e-mobility as well as shipbuilding, aerospace and other unstructured environments where the company’s intelligent robots and mobile robotic solutions are being brought to bear.

“But the final application of our technologies is only one aspect of sustainability,” she added. “The other one is connected to our clients’ sustainability targets, and we are their partners in reaching those targets.” Comau is also committed to the long-term support of sustainable technologies that are promising but perhaps not yet economically viable, such as electrolyzers for hydrogen production and the recycling of electric vehicle batteries. “We feel our automation solutions must support this journey of diversification” Ferrero said.

Comau technologies are also supporting its clients’ workers in otherwise dangerous situations, such as with welding robots that can be moved about in unstructured environments. “For example, we provide robots that can be moved around a ship that is being built,” explained Alessandro Piscioneri, advanced automation solutions product manager, Comau. “The operator can then indicate where the robot is to weld using a very easy-to-use tool, like a magic wand. Everything needs to be made easy to use and conveyed through simple interfaces; we need to remember we are often dealing with people that are completely outside of the automation process.”

Another indicator of Comau’s commitment to sustainability is the inclusion of “product” in the familiar environmental, social and governance (PESG) refrain. “Our engineers take ESG guidelines into consideration from the very beginning of a new product design,” Ferrero said. “This includes energy usage, potential emissions and even necessary floor-space,” she added. “The support of our customers’ ESG requirements is a new product requirement for us.” 

Finally, from a corporate perspective, Comau is supporting ESG goals by nurturing diversity and inclusion in its own workforce. “We are increasing the number of female employees, and in particular engineers,” she noted, “and the executive team already includes seven different nationalities.” The company is pursuing diversity not only in terms of gender and nationality, but also in terms of background and training in different parts of the value chain. 

“We have a diverse mix ranging from Boomers to Gen X, Y and Z all together,” she said. “We have a range of mentorship programs where some senior leaders are mentoring on traditional leadership /technical skills and the youngest are mentoring on the usage of digital tools. A mix of experiences and background is always the best thing, especially in an environment where change, innovation and knowledge mix are the core.”

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