In the era of automation, the way humans are now working with robots is becoming more and more vital. In this article, we take a look at what cobots are, and the advantages of using cobots over industrial robots. Keep reading below to learn more.
What are cobots?
Cobots, short for collaborative robots, are the latest technology when it comes to robotics and automation. As their name suggests, cobots are designed to work safely together with human employees. This is done by outfitting them with sensitive sensors that allow the robot to sense their surroundings, and when a cobot is interrupted during their task, they will immediately shut down and go into safety mode. This makes the robot incredibly safe to work alongside with, unlike more traditional robots.
What are industrial robots?
When people hear the term manufacturing robot, they are likely to picture an industrial robot. These are large machines that are made to work very quickly and accurately, and they are often programmed to do the same task 24/7. These robots generally have a fixed location in the factory or workshop, which means they do take up a lot more space when compared to their cobot counterparts. That said, all of these features make an industrial robot highly suited for production processes that do not vary for a long time.
However, the size and range of an industrial robot do present a few problems. For starters, they are not safe for human workers to interact with, which means a lot of industrial robots need to be put behind a fence or cage. They are also not very accurate when it comes to force control and for tasks that require varying degrees of sensitivity.
Benefits of using cobots
Cobots have a few unique features that help to make automation possible for a large range of businesses. Here are a few benefits that come from using utilising cobots for automation.
When it comes to programming a traditional industrial robot, it requires a lot of time and knowledge to make sure it can perform the correction action and task. Unlike their traditional robot counterparts, cobots are fairly easy to program in comparison. This is done through the use of user-friendly software and mobile applications, which means cobots can quickly pick up tasks and learn new actions without needing the human overseer to spend so much time teaching them. Human overseers can also manually set a cobot into their desired positions and then save them in the software. Since a cobot is so easy to program, these robots can be quickly implemented in various processes, and they can even be used to perform different tasks for different projects.
Normally, installing a traditional industrial robot takes at least a few days or weeks before it can get up and running. Installing a cobot, on the other hand, can be done within half an hour. This is due to its user-friendly software, meaning a cobot can get up and running within an hour. As such, the speed of installation allows a cobot to act as a temporary employee or flexible worker who can perform various tasks in different departments and situations in a very short amount of time, unlike their industrial counterparts.
Can be used in different situations
As stated above, a cobot is an incredibly flexible robot that can perform new tasks in a very short amount of time. In fact, adding new tasks to the cobot is a very simple endeavour. As a result, a cobot could perform the same task nearly every day of the week, or it could perform a different task every day. This way, businesses can look at places within their production process and find where the cobot could best be of value. This flexibility also allows the cobot to act as a temporary employee, instead of the businesses needing to hire or onboard new people. For instance, during peak times in the production process, it is possible to use a cobot for a few weeks instead of hiring a temporary employee.
More consistent and accurate
Unlike human workers, cobots are very accurate and consistent when they perform tasks. Unlike humans which may wind up making mistakes, especially if the task is very repetitive, cobots can perform actions with an accuracy of up to 0.1mm. Moreover, a cobot will never deviate from its actions, and will always perform the same task consistently, which humans cannot do. This includes tasks such as welding, tightening screws, painting, and more. This ensures the end product will be consistent and have the same quality.
There is no doubt that the main goal of automation is to increase productivity and optimise workflow. In other words, this means achieving the maximum goals with minimal costs. By using cobots, errors are minimised, employees have more time to do other tasks, and productivity will increase. This therefore results in better results for the business and makes production a lot more cost-efficient. While setting up a cobot does require an initial investment, it is not as expensive as industrial robots, and in the long run, it can even save money and boost one’s bottom line.
Positive impact on employees
As a cobot is designed to work alongside human employees, it will likely not replace workers. Cobots are also designed to be people-focused, as they can help workers refine the work they do. For instance, hazardous, dirty or repetitive tasks can instead be performed by the cobot so that employees can concentrate on tasks that require more cognitive input, such as strategic thinking, creativity, critical thinking and more. Tasks that cobots could share with human workers include maintenance or quality checks, and also the assembly of products.
Increase employee satisfaction
As employees feel satisfied and supported in the work that they do, they are likely going to enjoy the work they do a lot more. So, boring, monotonous work that is outsourced to cobots is likely going to make employees feel better about working for the company. In this sense, cobots help to create an attractive working environment. Cobots can also help to prevent health issues such as repetitive strain injury (RSI), as employees no longer need to perform the same tasks again and again. In the long term, this means less absenteeism, higher levels of job satisfaction, and more involvement of employees.
On the whole, cobots have proven themselves to be useful just like their industrial counterparts. They are more flexible and can improve the productivity and workflow of a company. They are also designed to be safe so that human workers can work alongside them, meaning they no longer need to be kept in cages, which means less floor space needs to be used. As cobots bring so much value to companies, it is highly likely they will stick around for years to come.