Robots test water at North West
Sunday 07 May 1995
Water companies have to test rivers and other sources regularly to ensure there is no contamination. Some 2,000 samples are taken by North West daily, leading to 6,800 tests. The process used to be labour-intensive but, as the Orwellian title emphasises, automatons are now at the heart of the process. People will still be employed in the lab, but 85 per cent of the work will be done automatically by 22 robots controlled by a single mainframe computer.
To ensure that samples are not mixed up, the flow of bottles and data will be strictly controlled by the computer when the lab goes into full operation in July. "It will be like a production line," said Geoff Springings, the project manager for the lab. "The robots are taking over what the scientists used to do."
The robots come in two types, one designed to lift and move objects from one place to another, the other able to do complex actions such as adding reagents to a sample, stirring it, or placing it in an analytical instrument. The only bit of routine work that has not been automated is filling the bottles.
The computer that runs the robots and monitors the flow of samples and information will notify its human supervisors if it spots contamination, but it can also act on its own. It can fire off faxes ordering staff in outlying stations to shut down the flow, add purifying chemicals or take other actions to solve any problem it identifies.
The key advantages are accuracy and time. Mistakes can lead to sick customers. So can delays. By the time the samples are taken, the water they were drawn from is already on the way to the tap through a mains network 42,300km long.
The regional water company also expects to save up to £2m a year on its labour and overhead costs.
The new centre has replaced all but one of its 28 regional labs, and allowed the company to cut its staff of analysts from 230 to a little over 100.
Those that remain are more satisfied with their jobs, the company said. They will do the 15 per cent of tests deemed too complex for the robots, and verify results when the system's automated checks and balances throw up an anomaly.
The staff is being organised in teams, with a flat hierarchy that is remarkably similar to the way the robots are grouped in cells.
- 1 Malaysian cyclist could face disciplinary action after 'Save Gaza' gloves protest
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Satellite full of sexually experimental geckos adrift in space, Russia loses control of mission
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home
Iraq crisis: Isis orders Mosul shop keepers to cover mannequins
Comic Con 2014 attendees
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
iJobs Money & Business
£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...
£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...