Automation vs. Autonomization

How to Distinguish Between the Two

3 min readFeb 2, 2022

What used to be a distant goal is a reality that has started to shape the future of almost every conceivable industry. Advances in technology have been shifting industries progressively from automation towards autonomy. This is not only apparent in the areas of self-driving cars or autonomous drones, but also robotics. Markus Bauer, idealworks’ COO, spoke to BVL Austria about the differences between automation and autonomization. See below for the English translation.

Automation vs. Autonomy: The Subtle Difference

Take the old road atlas from the rear dash, mark your starting point and destination, and precisely determine the desired route by tracing it with your index finger. The first step is done. But what happens if the planned route is blocked by a road closure? If you simply stay in park mode and wait for instructions on how to reach your destination on an alternative route, this is conceptually very close to an automated process. If, on the other hand, the driver is proactively trying to find a different way in order to continue the journey to the destination, this could be referred to as autonomization. There is a subtle but crucial difference when it comes to industrial robots: the automated processing of predefined sequences compared to autonomous decision-making both to resolve unforeseen events and to avoid unpredictable barriers. Markus Bauer, COO of the BMW Group spin-off and intralogistics specialist idealworks, on the changing industry.

Autonomy on the Rise

As exciting as tasks in the field of logistics may be, they usually comprise monotonous, repetitive activities that do not necessarily make it particularly easy for companies to keep the team motivation high in the long term. This, in combination with the ever-present War for Talent, the booming order situation plus an increase in production as well as digitalization initiatives lead to a high demand for innovative solutions. Mobile robots that independently avoid obstacles thanks to laser scanners and cameras along with defined safety zones open up new optimization potential. However, previous investments made in automation are not a waste of time and money, and can go hand in hand with autonomous devices. Rather, it is important to ensure the interplay and interaction of these different systems in order to cover the wide range of logistics applications.

Ready for Autonomization?

Regardless of size or industry, autonomization is something every business should look into. After all, the investment often amortizes within only a year. Nevertheless, it is important to consider the use case individually, ensuring that the company is ready for such a technological change. Well-structured, stable processes with simultaneous consideration of the workforce are prerequisites to ensure maximum performance of the implemented solution.

Risk It for the Biscuit

The demand is increasing noticeably, as is the number of startups on the market, Markus Bauer explains: “Companies should not be put off by the large number of providers.” The implementation time is much shorter than people assume, the solutions are flexible and scalable — and they do not require any structural adjustments. “Comprehensive consulting including an all-round carefree package from hardware and software to support and maintenance should be decisive when it comes to selecting a provider,” adds Bauer.

idealworks’ autonomous mobile robot, the iw.hub.

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