Technology that improves economic opportunities for workers
The Automation Clinic is an applied research and education program to understand how organizations make new technologies work in practice. MIT researchers and their partners work with organizations to learn the problems they aim to solve with new technologies, the challenges they face in deploying them, and the consequences for their workers, customers, and society. The aim is to train engineers and managers in what we call “positive-sum automation,” or technology that improves productivity for organizations while also increasing flexibility for workers.
Teams of researchers and graduate students conduct field research with companies deploying automation technologies. MIT teams focus on understanding how firms overcome obstacles to scaling automation. The goals of this work are: a) to educate engineers-in-training about the challenges of technology implementation, and b) discover best practices that can motivate technology design and adoption.
Although the automation clinic has focused primarily on companies near MIT, our team has begun to develop partnerships with firms and educational institutions in other regions. Regional automation clinic partners can participate in MIT's educational programming remotely while performing field research in their backyard.
Factories on the Frontier
Based on our research studying how firms deploy new technologies, Clinic researchers are producing case studies of best practices in deploying automation. In addition to written case studies and publications, our documentary series, Factories on the Frontier, features companies that have excelled in "positive-sum automation."
Julie Shah is Faculty Director of the Industrial Performance Center and co-leads the Work of the Future Initiative.
Despite advances in automation technology, the promise of productive and flexible automation, with minimal involvement of human workers, is far from reality, for two main reasons. First, adoption of automation technology has been limited. Second, when firms do automate, what they gain in productivity they tend to lose in process flexibility, resulting in what the […]
Christopher Fourie is a PhD candidate in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a member of the Interactive Robotics Group.
Robotics and related technologies are central to the ongoing digitization and advancement of manufacturing. In recent years, a variety of strategic initiatives around the world including “Industry 4.0”, introduced in Germany in 2011 have aimed to improve and connect manufacturing technologies in order to optimize production processes.
If you would like to learn more or get involved, please contact us. We will arrange an introductory call or visit to your facility with students who have relevant research interests. We learn from visiting all types of companies, and our highest-impact work comes from studying companies that demonstrate best practices in deploying new technologies.