Why manufacturers should invest in cobots
Collaborative robots (cobots) are designed to work side by side with humans. In contrast, traditional, static industrial robots work independently and in isolation from human contact.
Cobots are equipped with sensors and power limiting safety features that make collaboration between robots and humans possible. This type of collaboration makes the production process shorter, increases productivity, reduces the defects and supports employees in their work making them more efficient and valuable instead of replacing them.
In the manufacturing industry, productivity is the absolute key to success – the more productivity increases, the more profitable the business becomes.
In recent years, more and more manufacturers have chosen to implement cobots as part of their production process and the trend shows no sign of declining. Here are seven reasons why manufacturing companies should invest in cobots.
Easy to program
Many state-of-the-art cobots are designed to be user-friendly and easy to program, eliminating the need for the repeated involvement of an engineer. Some cobots boast of hand guiding features where the cobot ‘learns by example’ while being guided through the sequence of events needed to complete the task it has been originally programmed for.
The more time it takes to set up an automation process, the more expensive the initial investment becomes.
Staff training, production pauses and the high costs of external service providers can expeditiously increase the time it takes to see a return on investment. These issues and others can be highly problematic for small to medium-sized organisations.
Cobots provide out-of-the-box functionality and are designed to be deployed in the shortest possible period of time. Because of pre-programmed software, the latest models can be set up in less than 30 minutes which means that the user can install the robot themselves.
Additionally, the flexibility that comes with the short redeployment of the cobot helps to increase overall productivity and ROI.
One of the Cobots’ more prominent USPs is their flexibility. Programming a cobot for a new task is simple and an external service worker is not required to assist. This introduces a versatility into the production line and the cobot can easily be set up enacting a sequence of disparate tasks in the same day or assign designated days for certain tasks.
Cobots can also integrate easily into agile systems because they allow employees to quickly respond to design changes and redeploy the cobot accordingly.
The cobot designs currently on the market can fill a number of roles that are usually divided into the categories ‘service’ and ‘industrial’. Service cobots are used for providing information in public spaces, transporting goods or providing security.
Industrial cobots have several applications including; pick and place, packaging and palletising, machine tending, assembly, surface finishing and quality testing and inspection.
Robots are not afflicted with our human frailties and therefore do not suffer fatigue, injuries and illness, making them far more consistent and accurate workers than their equivalent human resource.
This fact makes cobots peculiarly suitable for monotonous tasks, as they can perform actions repeatedly without diminishing work quality. Cobots perform the same task with the same power requirements as long as you need them to.
A common concern of workers in manufacturing is that they’ll be replaced by machines that are faster, more precise and more efficient than they are.
The truth is that this scenario is highly unlikely – particularly within companies with high mix and low volume production, as traditional industrial machines commonly in use have high costs and low flexibility.
This opens the door to what is now being called the fourth industrial revolution.
Information technology and AI is used for smart manufacturing, placing the human workforce and collaborative robots alongside each other, with no requirement to reduce the size of the employee payroll. In this scenario, the workforce is not displaced by machines but the company invests in cobots.
Conversely, by utilising cobots, the worker is spared of repetitive processes and his or her time becomes available so it can be used for more complex processes thus improving the day-to-day experience of the workers.
Cobots support the human staff, taking over tasks that are dangerous, dirty and dull creating a safer and more enjoyable workspace.
Increase productivity and optimise processes
Cobots take over processes where a human worker would have trouble maintaining focus or performance at a consistent level over a long period of time. These processes are generally monotonous tasks or tasks that require the worker to hold an unergonomic position.
The precision a cobot can produce reduces failure and product defect possibility to practically zero.
Similarly, changing the tasks the cobot is intended to perform is fast and easy to implement, which helps the workers to optimise the production line and cut costs where necessary, while maintaining optimum standards of product quality.
Cobots cost less than industrial robots and can potentially earn back the investment in as little as 12 months – depending on which application it is utilised for and for how long. Another compelling reason to invest in cobots.
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