A short story on how MIMIC came to be on one of my first of many visits to China
Mimic was born in China. Visiting a major Chinese factory, I spoke with a production line manager on a tour of the production facilities. He showed me the many steps in the product pipeline. From raw material to an almost finished product, every step in the line was either fully automated or to a very high degree, until we reached the final step; polishing.
In general, every component goes through a polishing phase to change the fabricated part into what we as consumers expect from a digital component. Cell phone frames aren’t grimy; they are glossy. The metal parts on an e-watch aren’t rough; they are smooth. To achieve this, hundreds of workers manually polish every bit before it leaves the factory.
My guide told me of the need for highly skilled workers to finish millions of cell phone parts every day. The work is grimy, at times dangerous and requires know-how combined with a lot of practice. The air in the production is steamy and sparks fly everywhere. Consequently, a polishing worker is three times as expensive as a normal line worker at the factory.
In addition the factory had difficulty finding workers who can perform the complex tool jobs, keeping up their concentration working many hours, every day. As a result, they consistently risk being understaffed in the finishing department.
Mimic changed that. Our technology enabled the company to copy one human worker’s movements into twelve robot workstations. One man became in effect twelve people, working day and night. But we provided not only scalable flexibility. Our Mimic solution does not require a robotics expert on-site to tweak and rearrange a production schedule. The company is able to reconfigure their production in a matter of hours, and without any external involvement.
China is not the only place where a Mimic solution can be put into full effect. Production facilities in the U.S. and Europe are definitely starting to feel the challenges of a decreasing access to skilled labor. A few skilled workers equipped with Mimic enabled robot assistants will provide a great productivity boost, increasing quality and lowering costs, even in high mix – low volume productions.
Mimicking human movements doesn’t just benefit polishing and finishing. The complex motions and trajectories involved in painting and gluing are equally suited for Mimicking. Mimic can even boost tasks with point-to-point motions. Inspections are a good example, as is most repetitive jobs performed by a human worker.
Mimic is the ultimate solution for copying the labor of human beings into robots. It’s fun, scalable and safe. It mimics human beings. It’s damn cool.