It’s no secret that the manufacturing sector is hugely benefiting from the field of robotics, and in particular from the use of collaborative robots (cobots) in factory settings. Today, more and more manufacturers are exploring how cobots can revolutionize their organization’s operations by boosting efficiency and increasing productivity.
Cobots are distinguishable from ordinary robots by their usage of sensors and sophisticated programming algorithms, which allow them to work in close contact with human staff. Cobots automatically cease obstruction (whether it's an object or a person) and the forces applied during a collision, ensuring that they do not cause harm or injuries.
Although cobots are well suited for manufacturing, many businesses are putting money into cobots without having a clear strategy in place. It's crucial to consider how cobots may perform tasks like any other intelligent technology.
Cobots, despite their flexibility, are proving to be inadequate for many operational demands—a lack of anticipated return on investment is resulting from targeting the wrong cobots for operational requirements. The key to success is to carefully examine operations and determine where cobots may best collaborate with human employees.
A growing trend
Since its inception in 2008, cobots have grown more popular among manufacturers. This is entirely understandable since cobots' ability to aid human workers enhance efficiency and productivity by automating many routine activities contributes to their popularity.
In terms of industry development, cobots have been one of the most remarkable sectors in the robotics industry: according to the International Federation of Robotics, cobot sales are expected to grow at a yearly rate of 40% and Interact Analysis predicts that annual cobot revenue will hit $1.94 billion in 2028, accounting for 15.7% of the overall robot market.
Today, there are a slew of cobot manufacturers, and they're investing in them big time. These machines may be "trained" to complete repetitive tasks and are far less likely to make errors than their human coworkers, which is why so many producers are turning to cobots. Cobots are also simple to use with training and can usually be set up in a short amount of time. Another incentive for businesses is that collaborative robots are compact, making them more mobile than traditional industrial robots.
Advances robotics can be readily and simply wheeled from one factory station to the next, with a wide selection of cobot models available. Cobots are also adaptable in terms of software, allowing them to execute various activities instead of just one. Furthermore, because their inherently safe design eliminates the need for costly safety accessories, cobots are attractive. With those benefits and manufacturing running smoother due to flexibility based on high variation, low volume, short product life; it's easy to see how important cobots are.
It's critical to grasp the many different degrees that can be distinguished in collaborative robots (according to Bauer et al., 2016). The workspace and tasks of the human and the cobot during operations are divided into levels:
- Level 0 (Fenced robot cell): Humans and robots are entirely separate in space; there is no interaction between them.
- Level 1 (Coexistence): Humans and robots have separate workspaces with no physical separations between them.
- Level 2 (Synchronized): The participants are all in the same workplace; however, the activities are separated by time and the robot is unable to move while people are present.
- Level 3 (Cooperation): The workplace is shared between humans and robots, and both can work at the same time. On each workpiece, the people are working on different items.
- Level 4 (Collaboration): On this level, the human robot collaboration is full happening, they are both working on the same piece of work at the same time, really assisting one another in manufacturing.
Cobots offer new possibilities for low-volume or sophisticated manufacturing, as they can work on Levels 0-2. In the production of basic or complex items, cobots provide more options than traditional robots. Cobots are preferable to traditional robots in terms of production automation for tiny or medium enterprises because of their flexibility.
In the end, cobots allow humans and machines to work together more effectively and safely. Human-robot teams improve productivity, produce higher quality, and frequently provide a better return on investment than fully automated systems. However, cobot benefits can only be realized if they are deployed in specific areas where they will have the most impact.
Roadmap to cobot success
After management approval on robotization, manufacturers can progress to a cobot-powered organization by upgrading outdated IT systems, recruiting new specialists with multidisciplinary talents in areas relating to robotics, and upskilling current staff so they may use new technologies and tools. Technology consultants and robot integrators, on the other hand, can help companies.
Once you've decided what your goals are, you can start thinking about how to implement cobots at your company. First, businesses must figure out their cobot aims and any possible roadblocks to adoption. Of course, they must first examine production procedures to determine which tasks should be done by robotic arms. They must also establish the criteria for input and output parameters, such as how many boxes should a cobot pack in a given amount of time, and how many completed boxes should leave the factory at the end of that period.
Manufacturers can use the information to adjust their ideas and designs for robotic systems, as well as the workflows and operations necessary for their production lines. After that, they may produce a concept and early layout for their robot system.
When creating a strategy, use this checklist to make sure that all factors are considered:
- Determine whether manually operated equipment and machinery may be used with cobots.
- Examine company processes to see whether they need updating. Look for routine or basic activities, and assess how easy each activity is to automate using cobots.
- Develop a plan for introducing robots into the site environment across five dimensions of infrastructure, implementation, human-robot teaming, system operation, and culture.
- Make a plan for the design and integration of the many components of a robotic system based on your company's requirements.
The development of collaborative robots has made many manufacturing processes previously unapproachable. After the industrial community initially showed resistance to new technology, cobots swiftly infiltrated production lines. The hype surrounding cobots is only part of the reason for their rise, but it is unquestionably true that cobots brought robotization within reach for small and medium businesses. With the simplicity of use and flexibility of collaboration robots for manufacturing processes.
It is now easier for manufacturers to start using cobots in their manufacturing processes, and traditional industrial robotics companies provide cobot choices. However, you should think about the benefits and disadvantages of cobots before purchasing them for your business, as well as how much it will cost to install and operate them. Consider current limitations and build a clear implementation plan while working towards optimum performance.