Why automation requires humanity
Automation is becoming ubiquitous across most industries. In manufacturing, global sales of industrial robots are expected to almost double in volume by 2018, reaching 400,000 units. In the home, revenue from the home automation segment is expected to hit over $6 million this year and show an annual growth rate of CAGR 28.19 percent.
One of the biggest areas for automation we have seen is in the automotive industry, with the appetite for fully autonomous, self-drive vehicles growing. Earlier this month, automotive giant Mercedes-Benz previewed the potential future of urban transportation by trialling its autonomous CityPilot bus in Amsterdam. This was in a move it claimed would make public transport operate “even more safely, efficiently, and comfortably”.
This claim of the safety benefits is maybe not as flippant as it first sounds. Science fiction films often feature a central computer that is a collective amalgamation of numerous thoughts. But there is no reason for it to remain fiction. An automated vehicle could be the safest on the road were it to tap into a collective driving experience. Think of how you yourself drive home from work, go through traffic lights and circumvent roundabouts. It is all done naturally through a built up knowledge from experience. Now, imagine that the experiences from all of the drivers in the UK are uploaded into one database and used to drive the automated cars of the future. The automated car would be a driver with millions of years’ experience.
This would be the ultimate in collective consciousness big data. Yet, as with big data in all its forms, the valuable information lying beneath needs to be unlocked through effective analytics so that the findings can be processed, extrapolated and used correctly.
This data can be used by city planners across the globe who are falling over themselves to develop ‘smart cities’ built upon automation. For instance, in an effort to address the growing problems of congestion on the roads, Singapore has recently started testing a small fleet of automated Audi taxis to carry passengers around a business park. The driverless cabs are thought to reduce the cost of an average journey by 70 per cent by removing the need for a driver. Although the cars will initially have drivers ready to take over if the technology fails, the plan is to gradually phase the human out in 2019. The pilot ends in 2020 with a view to rolling out a wider deployment after that. The cars will be fitted with software that will allow commuters to book them, in a similar way to ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft. Similar pilot programmes in the US and Europe are likely to be announced later this year.
Driven, in part, by the wider trend for digital transformation, automation is here to stay. What is important, is to look at automation from the entire business perspective and end-to-end process. Organisations 20 years ago would automate a software test on a straightforward algorithm, however now we have a mass of integrated systems as well as embedded software and engineering that must integrate. This makes quality assurance and testing of such integrated systems far more complex and, therefore, demand complex automated test strategies.
The only way to assure that a business works as it should is to continuously test the entire business process, to ensure that an upgrade being implemented at one part of the digital ‘chain’ won’t affect digital operations elsewhere.
Whilst it is possible to pool together combined knowledge into actionable digital intelligence that can be used to automate the majority of the quality assurance process, it is important to remember that it takes a human to predict what a human will do. Because of this, it is never wise to completely remove humans from the quality assurance process, however we believe at least 30 percent of transactional activities involving IT will be automated by robots over the next five-10 years.
In conclusion, the automation of a business process needs to be underpinned by a comprehensive end-to-end quality assurance plan that includes an optimum combination of automated static analysis and expert human review. Any quality assurance needs to be done from the very beginning of a product or service development, and continued throughout. It is not enough to just test the new process to see if it will pass or not. The advisory capacity of domain knowledge is crucial to ensuring that automation isn’t simply an automatic route to disaster.
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Ultium Cells LLC/Li-Cycle: Sustainable Battery Manufacturing
Ultium Cells LLC - a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions - has announced its latest collaboration with Li-Cycle. Joining forces the two have set ambitions to expand recycling in North America, recycling up to 100% of the scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing
What is Ultium Cells LLC?
Announcing their partnership in December 2019, General Motors (GM) and LG Energy Solutions established Ultium Cells LLC with a mission to “ensure excellence of Battery Cell Manufacturing through implementation of best practices from each company to contribute [to the] expansion of a Zero Emission propulsion on a global scale.”
Who is Li-Cycle?
Founded in 2016, Li-Cycle leverages innovative solutions to address emerging and urgent challenges around the world.
As the use of Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in automotive, industrial energy storage, and consumer electronic applications rises, Li-Cycle believes that “the world needs improved technology and supply chain innovations to better recycle these batteries, while also meeting the rapidly growing demand for critical and scarce battery-grade materials.”
Why are Ultium Cells LLC and Li-Cycle join forces?
By joining forces to expand the recycling of scrap materials in battery cell manufacturing in North America, the new recycling process will allow Ultium Cells LLC to recycle cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite, copper, manganese and aluminum.
“95% of these materials can be used in the production of new batteries or for adjacent industries,” says GM, who explains that the new hydrometallurgical process emits 30% less greenhouse gases (GHGs) than traditional processes, minimising the environmental impact. Use of this process will begin later in the year (2021).
"Our combined efforts with Ultium Cells will be instrumental in redirecting battery manufacturing scrap from landfills and returning a substantial amount of valuable battery-grade materials back into the battery supply chain. This partnership is a critical step forward in advancing our proven lithium-ion resource recovery technology as a more sustainable alternative to mining, " said Ajay Kochhar, President, CEO and co-founder of Li-Cycle.
"GM's zero-waste initiative aims to divert more than 90% of its manufacturing waste from landfills and incineration globally by 2025. Now, we're going to work closely with Ultium Cells and Li-Cycle to help the industry get even better use out of the materials,” added Ken Morris, Vice President of Electric and Autonomous Vehicles, GM.
Since 2013, GM has recycled or reused 100% of the battery packs it has received from customers, with most current GM EVs repaired with refurbished packs.
"We strive to make more with less waste and energy expended. This is a crucial step in improving the sustainability of our components and manufacturing processes,” concluded Thomas Gallagher, Chief Operating Officer, Ultium Cells LLC.