Workers at Ford Motor Co. are learning how to give the new kid on the production line some elbowroom -- plenty of elbowroom.
The new kid is a robot that can knock a bystander to the floor as it goes through its paces on the assembly line. So Ford signed up a small company, Advanced Analytics Corp., of Champaign, Ill., to teach its workers how to coexist peacefully with the machines.
Advanced Analytics, a consulting and computer security company, has programmed an inexpensive, 26-pound robot to simulate the behavior of the bigger machine, called the IBM 7535. Working with the smaller robot in a week-long class, Ford equipment-maintenance employees learn to use the larger robot -- and to watch out for its potentially dangerous elbow. "Its arm only goes out about three feet," says Ken Taylor, co-founder of Advanced Analytics. "But since there are going to be so many of them along an assembly line, you have to be aware of each one."
Through such consulting work, Advanced Analytics hopes to take advantage of the boom in robotics, which International Data Corp. projects will become a $677-million market by the end of 1989. Advanced Analytics, which projects fiscal 1985 sales of $4 million, has developed software for robots at General Motors Corp.
The simulator has its limits, though. "What you'd really like to show [to people] to get across the point is a robot arm squashing somebody," says Donald W. Robbins, a Ford training specialist. "But you can't show that, so you show it hitting a small object." Like a toy Volkswagen, maybe?