This Week in Imaging: The Robots Aren’t Coming, They’re Already Here

Photo credit: Kathy Wirth

While we usually devote our attention exclusively to printing, imaging, and document management, news from Kyocera Corporation of Japan this week was noteworthy for two reasons.

First, Kyocera sees enough upside for toner-based copier/MFPs in Asia that it’s spending some $22.3 million to expand production for imaging drums used by its copier/MFPs at a new facility in China – increasing production by 150 percent.

Second, according to The Nikkei Asian Review, the entire production process will be automated, and this will enable Kyocera to employ more than 90 percent fewer workers at the new facility.

Some have said that robotics won’t replace jobs – most notably, the chief economic advisor to President Trump, Steve Mnuchin, who said recently “In terms of artificial intelligence taking over the jobs, I think we’re so far away from that that it’s not even on my radar screen. I think it’s 50 or 100 more years.”

In fact, the reverse is true (as a visit to an ATM or supermarket self-service cashier will demonstrate). Artificial intelligence and robotics are already here. Just in the office-imaging industry, automation has long taken over many time-consuming tasks, from basic use of OCR to convert scanned hardcopy documents into editable digital documents, to sophisticated information extraction and distribution workflows using scanned documents. Also, just in the digital-imaging industry Epson makes industrial manufacturing robots, as well as printers and has over 55,000 robots installed in factories worldwide. (According to the International Federation of Robotics, more than 1.4 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world​.)

Dual-arm Epson industrial robot.

Another robotic player from the digital-printing league is Konica Minolta:

Although Konica Minolta doesn’t make robots itself, it’s invested and partnering with Knightscope, maker of security robots that patrol public places. Konica Minolta also has a partnership agreement with Savioke, a provider of robots to the hospitality industry.

Finally, let’s not forget Toshiba.

Meanwhile, service robots (and robotic self-driving cars for that matter) still haven’t been perfected, but do we have any reason to believe they won’t be?

One of the unhappy side effects of robotics and AI is that they replace jobs and income for humans – and can present a bleak prospect for economies. On the other hand, the office-imaging industry’s premise itself is based on automating labor: beginning with carbon paper and typewriters to simultaneously make multiple copies when typing one documents, to Xerox’s first analog copier, and to digital printers that replaced typists. Today’s workflow-automation solutions, eliminate many production-related and data-entry jobs.

However, mass computerization, digitization, and AI have also created many jobs – at place like Microsoft, Amazon, HP, Xerox, etc., and many suggest that while AI and robotics will displace many jobs, they’ll also create new ones ((requiring more skilled workers – such as information security analysts). One thing’s for sure, robotics and AI are already a reality and here to stay – someone please alert Steve Mnuchin.

Office-Imaging News

Lexmark Healthcare Solution Uses Copier/MFP to Provide Downtime Assistance – Read more here.

New Lexmark Supply-Chain Document Optimization Designed for Digitizing Inefficient Paper-Based Workflows – Read more here.

Konica Minolta Shows New ECM, IT Solutions at Dealer Conference – Read more here.

Kyocera to Ramp Up Production of Copier/MFP Imaging Drums in China – Read more here.

Epson Launches Advantage Partner Program for Resellers – Read more here.

Financial News

HP Inc. Forecasts Robust 2018 Fiscal Performance – Read more here.

Consumer-Imaging News

HP’s New Sprocket “2-in-1” Combines Mobile Printer with Built-In Digital Camera- Read more here.

3D-Printing News

HP: Full-Color 3D Printing, 3D Metal Printing for Manufacturing on the Way- Read more here.

Legal News

Canon Wins Preliminary Injunction for Patent Infringement against JT Company- Read more here.

Other News

Snopes: Do Color Printers Leave Tracking Dots? ‘Mostly True’ – Read more here.

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October 2017


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