Robots on factory floors have increased in numbers over the past few years. Today these pieces of smart equipment are called cobots. Collaborative robots are the best way to embrace automation in factories and optimize collaboration between robots and human workers. Rather than replacing the human employee, as it was previously practiced, manufacturing robots can now be found in close cooperation with human workers, ensuring a smoother workflow and fewer production mistakes. Human-robot collaborations will mark the future of manufacturing. The abstract thinking and problem-solving capabilities of humans wonderfully paired with the brute force of machines are due to resulting in products with fewer manufacturing defects. When programmed properly, machines can run uninterrupted for weeks.
Factories, where robots perform all the risky, physically demanding and repetitive tasks and human employees have the necessary time to handle meaningful tasks become a realistic perspective in the factories of the future. In connected workplaces, robots will ensure higher productivity rates, increased operational efficiency and lower manufacturing costs. But let’s see how are cobots changing the way humans work and how the workplace of the future looks like.
Cobots Are Safe Collaborators for Human Employees
In terms of safety concerns regarding collaborative robots, specialists in the industry say that these pieces of equipment are entirely safe for human employees, as long as the safety standards are thoroughly followed. In factories, paying attention to workplace safety rules and regulations and ensuring that all those are followed is the rule of thumb for all parties’ safety. Regarding safety measures, when working with collaborative robots, humans have to ensure that they don’t interfere with the robot’s workspace, as long as it performs specific tasks. However, not even these scenarios result in employee injury. The machinery simply activates the breaks, preventive injuries in the workplace.
Cobots can easily detect when humans are at their close proximity, and they can stop their task altogether when human workers’ safety might be damaged. To preserve employee safety, factories where collaborative robots are present designate a safety area surrounding each piece of machinery.
Advantages of Using Cobots in the Workplace
The advantages of using similar pieces of automation equipment are numerous, adding value to the company itself as well as the products resulting in the manufacturing process. Below are some of the advantages brought by collaborative robots in the production workflow.
1 Easy Programming
Cobot technology ensures easy programming of the pieces of equipment even by employees with little programming notions. Usually, the intuitive, 3D visualization capabilities allow the workers to easily move the robot arms where desired and use the touchscreen interface to operate it.
2 Fast Setup
In the case of state-of-the-art cobots, deployment time is significantly reduced. In their case, what could be completed in weeks, is reduced to hours, making the whole process approachable by employees with no previous experience to unpack and mount the robot in a matter of hours.
3 Flexible Automation
Smart cobots are flexible enough to be programmed to perform different tasks and operate in different departments. The increased flexibility lets companies easily change their production lines and adapt those to the market dynamics and demands. The flexible capabilities of collaborative robots increase operational efficiency and lower operational costs.
4 Enhanced Collaboration Abilities
Due to their increased flexibilities, new-age collaborative robots can now be easily integrated into collaborative workplaces and environments. Because of the enhanced safety levels incorporated in these pieces of equipment, they can safely and accurately collaborate with human employees without endangering their well-being. Moreover, cobots show increased efficiency when performing dull and unattractive tasks, successfully filling in positions with a “hard-to-fill” reputation.
Cobots Applications and Operations
This type of machinery shows high-efficiency levels in a series of applications and operations. They are developed around the collaboration principle, and they can boost workflow capacities when implemented. Some of the most frequent applications and operations where cobots are integrated are the following.
Assembly lines seem to be the biggest beneficiaries of this type of robots. Complex assembly lines (think electronics assembly lines) enjoy the extreme precision of collaborative robots and reducing the human labour related to performing daunting repetitive tasks. Complex inspections and difficult manipulation can now be performed with cobot’s help. This allows human employees to focus on more complex tasks without having to move around pieces and components.
2 Machine tending
Robots perform better at arranging parts and lining them up for the production flow, as specified in the manufacturing instructions. Previously, productions flows were prone to human error, an aspect that slowed down significantly production time. Humans tend not to perform that good at precision tasks, cobots being the perfect collaborator for them.
Packing tasks are meaningless but nonetheless, necessary. They can be easily moved to robots and this type of machinery will handle the process with more ease, without overstuffing or understaffing the goods.
Besides the functionalities presented above, cobots have other features as well. They have been successfully implemented in welding, lab testing control, supply chain management and screwing quality control and pick and place tasks. The future can only boost cobots’ functionality and applications, making them increasingly accessible and more capable on a broader array of industries, niches, and departments.
Cost-effective, safe and flexible, easy to deploy and automate, these pieces of equipment are due to change how companies in different sizes function and automate their processes. In spite of the widespread belief that robots will entirely replace human workers, they are only due to bring increased collaborative abilities in the workplace, allowing employees to focus on those important tasks, without having to worry about repetitive, high-risk, or daunting tasks. Packaging, assembly and other repetitive tasks will soon be taken on by collaborative robots.