How do Cobots help with Material Handling?

Material handling is the process of moving goods and materials short distances within a facility. If you look around your building now, you will probably see material handling tasks everywhere. Your workers will be picking up items, moving them around, sorting and storing them.

You may feel that these tasks cannot be automated because the variety of material handling requirements may pose complications for Cobot deployment. So how can Cobots help you with material handling? 

Benefits of Using Cobots for Material Handling

Cobots can help you overcome some of the most common material handling challenges, including:

  • Increasing labour resource
  • Regulating costs
  • Improving productivity
  • Reducing production time lost
  • Reducing work-related injuries

Handling, lifting, and carrying accounted for 18% of workplace injuries in 2020/21. Material handling tasks involve movements that put inevitable strain on your worker’s bodies. Often, the repetitive nature of handling activities leads to musculoskeletal injuries. You can reduce the risk of these injuries by giving appropriate training or encouraging fitness and pre-work stretches, but the most effective way to stop injuries is to automate the operation.

How Does a Cobot Fit with other Material Handling Machines?

Cobots are an option for your materials handling requirements. Other types of handling equipment, such as conveyors, have their place and a Cobot cannot replace them all. For example, if you need to handle a 100kg product, it is obvious that a human cannot lift it, and a Cobot does not have the payload required.

To understand how Cobots could help you, consider the type of tasks your workers carry out, the kind of support they need and the reasons driving you to adopt a different approach. If your application involves an activity like moving sacks from a pallet to a conveyor and your aim is to reduce the risk of injury, a Cobot could step in, take the strain, deliver your desired outcome, and work tirelessly for you.

4 Material Handling Cobot Applications

To help you with your initial thoughts, here are 4 examples of material handling task that are perfect for a Cobot:

Packing Products

Packing products for shipment is a common material handling task. It often involves moving a product from a conveyor line onto a pallet ready to be loaded into a lorry. To move the product from the conveyor line to the pallet, a worker often must twist their torso, moving back and forth between the two. This repetitive action can cause lower back pain and strain, making the activity unenjoyable.

A Cobot is flexible and has built in self-learning abilities. One Cobot can handle various types of products if you add different end effectors. By investing in additional infrastructure, you could use your Cobot to pick, place and pack for you, potentially merging tasks that would otherwise require several workers.

Part Transfer

Simply moving parts from one area to another is a common and necessary process in most manufacturing production lines. It is a low skilled, often boring task that workers do not enjoy and find demoralising. A Cobot can seamlessly transfer parts from place to place around your site, freeing up your workers to do more meaningful tasks.

Loading and Unloading Conveyors

You may use conveyors in your production facility and the act of loading items on and off the conveyor is likely to be performed by a worker. Again, this is a mundane and tedious task. The items can also be heavy or cumbersome, so the risk of injury is always present.

A bespoke automation solution can help you to increase throughput and decrease labour costs. But a Cobot can also automate this task for a fraction of the cost.

Holding Materials in Place

You may have a handling application that requires a part to be held in place whilst an operation is carried out. This could include screwing, welding, painting, etc. By deploying a Cobot with collision detection technology and controllable arm speeds, it can be programmed to pick up the part, hold it steadily whilst your worker completes a skilled operation. You could add a second Cobot to complete the operation, freeing your worker completely from the task and reducing the cost of the overhead or reallocating the human resource to a task that requires greater skill levels.

Programming your Cobot

A common barrier to Cobot automation is a belief that programming and coding it to perform the desired actions requires a high level of programming skills.

The Handling Concepts’ Cobot range is simple and requires no prior programming experience. These Cobots feature intuitive self-learning capability that enables you to pose and move the Cobot arm as you would when using your own arms to complete the task. Motion capture technology learns movements whereby your Cobot will replicate the action repeatedly with precision and accuracy.

A Cobot can be easily programmed, is flexible and compact and will sit well into your material handling process. Your new Cobot can be quickly integrated into your operation, requires no training, and can start contributing to your productivity, adding value immediately.

For advice on a safe, flexible Cobots for industrial use, contact Handling Concepts today to learn more about how you can unlock more value by investing in a machine assisted workforce.

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