You know what it’s like. You read industry publications that announce the latest technology that’s revolutionising your industry, and it seems like you’re getting left behind. But all the while you’re getting by with the resources you have that work just fine, why change? Especially when you know that all that glitters is not gold.

Collaborative robots (cobots) are one such technology edging their way into manufacturing processes, and in 2019 we signed a deal with TechMan to supply and integrate their products alongside our motion control systems. As such, we are already designing and integrating solutions for our customers, as well as discovering the practical applications and advantages this technology can bring to the workplace.

There is no doubt there are huge benefits of having an automated system for repetitive tasks, whether it’s sorting, assembly, inspection or loading. But, we are also advising customers to take it slowly, asking the big questions before dipping their toe in the water, such as Is your business actually ready for cobots? And, are they ready for you?

The Rising Cost Of Labour

The most important influencing factor we see that is driving businesses to explore cobots in 2020 is the ongoing rise in UK wages. A 40-hour week living wage is set to increase to £18,138 in April (not including employers national insurance, pension contributions and other benefits). So, for simple, repetitive tasks in the workplace, the cost of labour is becoming a significant issue for companies that retain a manual process in their workflow.

Balancing this argument against the lowering costs of investment required for planning and learning how to integrate cobots, and it looks like the tipping point has finally arrived. The investment in collaborative robots is now more viable than ever.

That said, it is imperative to understand how a cobot could, or should, work within any existing process and that’s where a decent partner comes in to help genuinely quantify any investment you may be thinking of making.

The Right Choice At The Right Time

A more cautious approach is essential in understanding purpose. Whilst an attractive proposition commercially, many of our conversations around the implications of integrating cobots lead to more serious considerations which may negate the need, or at least delay it.

Firstly, there is still a wide range of existing options available in terms of motion control automation that may be better suited to the job in hand, which is why it is essential to take a consultative approach to the application you are looking at.

Secondly, the real-world case studies that many companies need, in order to contextualise their investment aren’t there yet. Yes, the technology is amazing and proven, but there also needs to be the fundamental Why? By breaking down your processes in the workplace and understanding how robots can enhance each individual one, you should begin to see where the investment opportunities actually lie.

The consultative approach is one we’ve always taken at LG Motion, simply because long-term relationships offer more value to our customers and in turn us. So, if you would like to start exploring cobots, why not get in touch, we’ll try our very best not to sell you one.

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