“CoBots” is a contraction of the word “collaborative” and “robots” and covers a work situation where robots are working closely with people. The market for collaborative robots in the automotive industry is expected to grow by 43 percent annually over the next five years, so robot potential usefulness is far from completely played out.
If you choose to automate only the simplest 80 percent of a production process, the solution will typically be significantly cheaper than a fully automated solution. You can leave the remaining 20 percent (the technologically difficult sub-processes) to a human operator. This means that the robot may, for example, do only the dirty work such as heavy lifting or many monotonous repetitions, and has a human companion to perform the work that is more variable and requires a little more ingenuity.
Sharing processes between the robot and the operator means that operators often come into close contact with the robots. Therefore the robot must be safe – safety requirements for collaborative robots are far tougher than for closed robot cells.
Collaborative robots – in contrast to large robot cells that are either heavy maybe bolted to the floor — can typically be moved around the production area and potentially used in more than one production process. Companies that do not mass produce a product, but instead produce many product variations and different products (High Mix / Low Volume), can benefit from using collaborative robots because of the options of rapid relocation to where their work is needed, and rapid reconfiguration to deal with new tasks.
Because collaborative robots are distinguished by being flexible, they are often also much more user-friendly than their more traditional robot colleagues. It is normally easy for ordinary production workers to manage and reconfigure the robot.
5. Improving employees
Collaborative robots can perform tasks that are hard and laborious for human employees, and enable employees to produce faster, more safely and efficiently. Companies with collaborative robots are more likely to make products at a price that can compete with products produced in countries with cheaper labour. Businesses can also benefit from employees who have some spare capacity to e.g. devise new and creative methods of production and process optimization.