Future Factories Cobots: your new colleague at work

Editor: Ahlam Rais

Collaborative robots have gradually entered the shop floor and have become quite popular among workers from across the globe. Its diverse benefits and ease of human-robot collaboration has made cobots a massive hit in present day factories.

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Cobots will not take away workers’ jobs, instead it will give them the opportunity to upgrade their work skills.
Cobots will not take away workers’ jobs, instead it will give them the opportunity to upgrade their work skills.
(Source: Universal Robots)

Right from holding heavy parts to performing monotonous activities, collaborative robots have transformed the way people work on the shop floor. Initially, there was tension among workers regarding the security of their jobs with the introduction of cobots in their factories. However, as they began to work closely with collaborative robots, they started realising the merits.

Examples in practice

According to a case study by Universal Robots, workers at an India-based SME, SMEW Textile Machinery that produces textile winding machines, were impressed with the cobot installed in their factory. Used for pick and place applications, the operators found it easy to use and programme the cobot. It also made the workers realise that it could make their work easier and also upgrade their skills at the same time.

The ROI (Return on Investment) for the cobot was less than a year and with it, SMEW Textile Machinery was able to triple its production. Before the robot was installed, the firm was making 30 pieces per week and now they are manufacturing 80-90 pieces every week!

Another case study by Kuka showcases how Skoda Auto, one of the leading global car players recently turned from producing automobiles to high tech automatic double clutch transmissions for the entire Volkswagen Group at its factory in Vrchlabi, Czech Republic. To assist this change, the car company turned to Matador Group to establish a production line by making use of a cobot. Workers working with the cobot reveal that it is completely safe and that they do not require safety barriers. There are many other similar ‘cobot’ stories from across the globe.

Cobots will assist workers

On the job security front, workers are now relaxed. They are now beginning to understand that with the advent of cobots, their jobs will not be taken, instead it will give them the opportunity to upgrade their work skills. Swaminathan Ramamurthy, General Manager at Robotics Business Division, Omron Asia Pacific says: “The intension of cobots is not to replace factory or human workers, but to complement the work that workers are putting in the production lines. Equipped with sensors to detect and avoid collisions, cobots can navigate around workers, and operate in crowded workspaces and tight factory corridors.” He also adds that manufacturers have therefore been deploying cobots to support factory workers in their daily tasks, which minimises physical exertions and increases overall productivity.

Seconding his view, Greg Buell, Product Manager Collaborative Robots, Fanuc mentions: “Implementation of collaborative robots has not proven threatening to factory workers, nor linked to job-loss perceptions or misunderstandings associated with automation. In my experience and from information provided by others, workers are accepting and, in some cases, grateful to have these new “collaborative” partners working with them.”

Collaborative robots are definitely the future and with the significant increase in smart factories or factories of the future, the demand for cobots is also expected to increase.

This article first appeared on www.maschinenmarkt.international.

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