Robots are moving from behind fixed and caged locations to work stations alongside human workers – not to mention moving from heavy-duty industrial applications to actions like providing assistance and augmenting skills. Collaborative robots, called co-bots, are redefining human-robot relationships across the manufacturing industry. Companies of all types and sizes are finding strategic reasons to acquire or invest in collaborative robots, and they’re smart to do so. Here are a few of the many benefits co-bots bring to the table.
1. Increased Human & Robot Efficiency
This is the most obvious benefit. When working with robots, usually the operator loads parts to a fixture, conveyor, or turntable. Next, the operator leaves the work space, and the robot does its work. With collaborative robots, the operator can give the part directly to the robot and never has to leave the work space – reducing time, cost, and floor space. In a study conducted by MIT researchers at a BMW factory, teams made of humans and robots collaborating were shown to be more productive than teams made of either humans or robots alone. In fact, human idle time was reduced by 85% when collaborating with a robot.
2. Applicable to Small to Midsized Manufacturers
There’s a stigma that robots are only useful or realistic for large industrial manufacturers. However, that’s simply not the case anymore. Automated equipment can now be used with small to midsize organizations by using smarter and more accessible collaborative robots. These smaller companies stand to benefit from co-bots and their various industrial applications, like assembly, loading/unloading, packaging, sorting, dispensing, sanding, and polishing. These types of applications and processes will continue to benefit as collaborative robots are embraced across a range of business sizes.
3. Increased ROI
With today’s collaborative technology, a large number of applications see a return on investment (ROI) in less than one year when they invest in co-bots, human training, and support. Because these robots can be co-located to work directly next to their human counterpart, there are fewer barriers to work around and less lost time. When you think about it, it adds up: you’re increasing productivity and reducing labor costs while also implementing exciting and cutting edge technology, which is very attractive to many customers.
4. Greater Flexibility in the Human Environment
We’ve mentioned it already, but the benefits of installing robots free of safety cages are endless. Robots can work in complex human environments without being encumbered by large cages and the external sensors and barriers that often accompany them. This allows facilities to deploy robots, remove robots, or deploy humans within one central work space, enabling flexibility that is required by a lot of high-mix, low-volume manufacturing facilities. It also frees floorspace and can lower the cost of implementing robotics for many manufacturers.
5. Safely Handle Complex and Dangerous Tasks
In cases where safety and complexity are paramount, not only do collaborative sensing robots work side-by-side with a human counterpart, but they’re also able to complete complicated and dangerous tasks that traditional robots or humans simply can’t. Applications like steadying the motion of surgical tools or lab operations to prevent human error from causing unwanted motion are at the forefront of the collaborative robots industry. This paves the way for humans to rely on the inherent benefits of robots while improving complex and dangerous techniques.
6. Unlimited Potential
This is just the beginning for collaborative robots. In the long term, with the rapid increase in the abilities of robotic systems, it’s difficult to say what our roles as humans will be within highly automated manufacturing applications. For now, sales of collaborative robots represent 5% of the overall robot market, but experts expect that share to grow exponentially as more manufacturers and engineers get their hands on co-bots and start exploring their possibilities – across every industry from agriculture to aerospace.
Kundinger has been serving the Fluid Power, Industrial Automation and Process Control markets for more than 55 years. Whether you’re looking for individual components, or a complete turnkey engineered system, Kundinger can create a customized solution to fill your particular needs.