West Michigan company brings self-driving robots into the workforce

Robots in the workplace are not uncommon, but new, self driving robots can be programmed to do things like open elevators and drive specific routes while coexisting with other workers.

ZEELAND, MICH. - Robots in the workplace is hardly a new concept, but a robot that can open elevators and drive itself is.

A West Michigan company is working to determine what place new self driving robots have in local businesses and factories.

Local business members gathered at the Industrial Control conference room to learn from an Mobile Industrial Robots representative on best practices, Tuesday, March 14, 2017.

"Crazy to think of all the things it can do," said Vice President of Industrial Control Mark Ermatinger.

These robots, produced by MIR, can be programmed to perform specific missions and routes, enabling them to coexist with human coworkers.

"The challenge is looking at how many different apps can save time and money for the manufacturer," Ermatinger said.

These current challenges are far different from the challenges Ermatinger's father faced in the 1970s, when he started the business in their home basement.

"Dad... quits his job to start a business in the basement with his kids... took him six months to get his first order," Ermatinger said.

The need for businesses like Industrial Control has grown almost as rapidly as the tech industry itself, as more businesses look to technology to resolve manufacturing issues.

"Anything that revolves around a factory wanting to improve their process... that's our job," said Ermatinger.

Tools like the self driving robot can last for 10 hours before needing to recharge, which only lasts from 10-15 minutes.

Ermatinger said there's a lack of workers willing to do the kind of jobs that these robots can do.

"This will alleviate some people to help in other parts of the factory," Ermatinger said.

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Emma Nicolas is a reporter and investigative producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email news@wzzm13.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.

© 2017 WZZM-TV


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