What is a Cobot?
Robots and automation are often an exciting but scary concept for many manufacturing businesses. They are a terrific way to automate laborious tasks, but the perceived high cost, threat to human jobs and the belief that they require an isolated working environment creates resistance for many businesses thinking of taking the first step.
A new generation of robots, known as Collaborative Robots or “Cobots,” is becoming more popular in the UK Market, as these are designed to increase resources and work side by side with human colleagues. But what does “Cobot” mean?
What are Cobots?
Collaborative Robots or “Cobots,” are robotic arms that can be programmed and deployed to perform specific functions in order to assist workers in a variety of tasks.
The term “Cobot” was first applied back in the mid-1990s. At that time, robots were already being integrated into production settings. These robots were being used to complete repetitive tasks in a controlled environment. However, they were very large and worked often at high speed and this combination presented a risk to safety. The robots had to be isolated by installing protective barriers to prevent workers from being injured by the moving machinery.
As the potential for this new technology became realised, research and development time has been invested to increase processing powers and to add sensor technology to reduce the risk to safety. As robotic innovations evolved, Cobot models were produced in the early 2000s.
Today, technology continues to develop, and this has enabled manufacturers to address the entry level costs and safety concerns around the first industrial robot applications to make the deployment of Cobots more accessible across manufacturing. Today’s Cobots are commonly used to complete repetitive tasks such as pick and place and assembly to increase efficiency, operating speeds and to free up workers to complete more valuable tasks.
Cobots are Not a Replacement
Some people fear that Cobots will steal jobs and create unemployment. But, in the UK today, there is a significant lack of worker availability, especially for low skilled, mundane tasks. Additionally, staff retention in these jobs is problematic. The nature of the work results in workers becoming bored and demotivated, so they leave. Furthermore, repetitive tasks create a risk of strain and injury, so sickness absences are common.
Cobots are designed to work alongside humans, taking the strain and tedium away to free up workers to engage in more skilled, valuable, enjoyable activities. Cobots function at safe, manageable speeds, alongside humans. They quite literally offer an extra pair of hands. They don’t get bored, tire, or injure, they just keep going and can help you fill your labour shortages.
As you can see in the picture above, Cobots are small robotic arms. This arm does not prevent a human worker from completing a task. It offers support. This helps you to speed up productivity whilst minimising the risk of human error and it increases safety.
How Could a Cobot Benefit You?
Apart from the safety benefits and the additional resource you can achieve, there are other advantages:
Cobots are compact, simple to set up and easy to operate. Operators require little programming experience; many suppliers include self-learning packages or drag-and-drop configurators. An automation integrator like Handling Concepts can help you to deploy a fully functional Cobot in a matter of weeks.
Cobots are not a one job solution. They are designed to be versatile and can complete a variety of tasks in any factory. As long as you have a suitable end effector, you can program your Cobot to take on a new task in a matter of minutes.
Repetitive tasks often result in poor manual handling techniques, and this is a common cause of musculoskeletal repetitive strain injury known as “RSI”. Cobots can easily relieve workers of these tasks, reducing the likelihood of injury and can help you to build a happy and healthy workforce. Your employees will feel the positive benefits of being engaged in more meaningful, valuable tasks. If you use a Cobot to remove the burden of mundane jobs, your workers can focus on activities that require creativity or solution-oriented thinking. This helps to create an enriched, attractive work environment.
Businesses who are seeking safer, more sustainable methods of automation to optimise productivity are starting to realise the benefits of Cobots.
Handling Concepts Cobot Integrators
With over 25 years of experience providing materials handling solutions, Handling Concepts’ Cobot range gives you access to a selection of affordable, intuitive, and flexible collaborative robot arms. They are easy to set up and programme; they are off-the-shelf and can be tailored to fit in to your operation to automate dirty, dangerous, and dull tasks.
Contact Handling Concepts today to learn more about how a Cobot could benefit you and your business.