Transforming the factory floor to enhance productivity
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a gradual increase in the presence of robots on manufacturing factory floors and industries that have embraced automation have seen an increase in efficiency and productivity. But, there is a key concern amongst employees that the rise of robots will ensure the human worker’s extinction. Of course, this concern is mostly unfounded, a result of scaremongering.
Meanwhile, new ways of thinking have gained traction. Rather than make their human counterparts redundant, the manufacturing robots of the future will work collaboratively alongside them. This has been witnessed with the introduction of collaborative robots, commonly known as “cobots”.
Cobots are designed to complement human workers, operating in almost any environment. While humans excel at complex thinking and problem-solving, robots are proficient at delivering accuracy to repetitive and (sometimes) unsafe, time-sensitive tasks.
What if robots were to do all the heavy-lifting and monotonous error-prone tasks, leaving employees to focus on more challenging and meaningful work? What if production lines were able to flow unsupervised with minimal error? The future workforce will see robots working collaboratively with employees; complementing their work, improving efficiency, and increasing productivity.
Well, that future already exists!
Small, lightweight, and designed to operate safely for close human operation, cobots are an ideal entry point for many businesses looking to embrace robotics. Cobots can execute tasks with minimal programming and can be adapted to integrate into existing processes. A world away from their industrial robot counterparts, cobots are well suited to SMEs.
Globally, collaborative robots are widely integrated into workflows and viewed simply as tools that coexist alongside human employees – allowing them to be more efficient.
Cobots are increasingly attractive to manufacturers who require flexible solutions for their production lines but may not have the capital needed to justify large investments in automation systems. A recent study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that cooperation reduced the human idle time by 85%, making cobot-human working more productive than purely human or robot teams.
In the UK, cobots complete a wide range of tasks from stacking crates, painting and welding, to sticking on car door liners and basic QA inspections.
The cobots’ lower cost and easy programming enable more businesses to implement them into their production processes. With their refined torque-sensing capabilities and lightweight but solid construction, they are safe to use and easy to deploy. What’s more, the ability to adapt their software to suit means the cobots can also be rapidly redeployed to add flexibility to your operations.
Going forward, what will this look like?
According to a report by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), international sales for robots reached almost £10 billion last year and has been increasing since 2017. The IFR predicts “a strong sales increase” in the coming years, particularly of robotic systems used for logistics, which is expected to more than double by 2022.
Future automation across all areas of manufacturing is inevitable; however, with the increasing development of cobots, there is no danger of them taking over completely, as they need human intervention for connectivity and programming.
Obviously, in the future, there’s no doubt that many human tasks today will be taken over by cobots. Still, for industries that suffer from skills shortages, such as manufacturing, and the ongoing rise in UK wages, this may be a positive move. Using cobots provides many companies with an opportunity to up-skill their employees, alleviating the dependency these skill shortages have caused.
This collaborative future has the potential for new, historically unimaginable benefits. Rather than merely streamlining how businesses currently manufacture, it allows cobots to serve as workhorses across organisations, transforming how companies work and how they go about production and testing.
One of our previous articles ‘Is it the right time for collaborative robots‘ took a look at the technology that is revolutionising industry and asks whether you feel like you’re being left behind.
Gary Livingstone, Managing Director at LG Motion comments, “There is no doubt that there are huge benefits of having an automated system for repetitive tasks, but we’re also advising our customers to take it slowly and asking the question, is your business actually ready for a cobot?”.
The core of our business is experience, knowledge and a pragmatic approach to providing motion technology solutions across a very diverse range of applications.
LG Motion designs and engineers electro-mechanical motion systems that are used in a wide range of scientific and industrial solutions. Our collaborative robots have the ability to sense their environment and people they operate alongside. Using world-recognised component partners, and working hand-in-hand with customers, our bespoke solutions enable research, development and manufacturing to move forward.
Our solutions offer cost-effective collaborative robot solutions for industries that are easy to implement and update, our cobots are packed with features to maximise the effectiveness of your processes.