Have you heard about these collaborative robots?! You might have seen them at 2016 IMTS or read about them in an industry magazine. Perhaps you believe in cutting edge technology or you can’t find enough employees or you think your current staff is better utilized on the more challenging and skilled tasks then the repetitive and monotonous jobs robots are designed for.
Whatever your reasons are be sure to ask yourself a few questions before you go out and spend your hard earned dollars on a collaborative robot.
The term collaborative robot, also called “cobot”, refers to robots that collaborate with humans.
The traditional robot is designed to do a specific job by itself. It is placed in a cage, programmed and left alone to do an assigned task. This task could be simple or complicated. Most robots find their way into the work place to perform the heavy lifting, dangerous jobs or the repetitive motion work that an employee may be too skilled to copmlete. For example, the automotive industry installed welding robots in the late sixties and early seventies. These robots have evolved, becoming easier to program, more flexible, and less costly. However they still have to be kept separate from humans for safety reasons. Those traditional robots only perform what they are programmed to do. They continue the work even if a human walks in front of it.
Cobots were first talked about when we entered the 21st century. However, it took a good decade to make them affordable, efficient, and effective enough to actually work within the manufacturing environment next to humans.
So what are collaborative robots? They are robots designed to work alongside of humans. They have sensors that detect humans, slowing motion or stopping motion so they will not harm their co-worker. They are easier to program, more flexible and can perform task from simple load and on-load to more complex assembly and inspection jobs.
So what do you need to ask yourself before you invest in cobots?
As the landscape of US manufacturing continues to change you need to continually review and reevaluate your business needs regarding equipment. Collaborative, as well as traditional robots, can and will continue to play a big part in ensuring you stay competitive. Prepare for their implementation before they arrive on your production floor.
Discuss the above questions with your staff. When you review the answers, it will be easier to make the right decisions. If cobots might not be in your immediate future, keep reviewing the question to decide if it makes sense to add them.