Collaborative Robots get friendly with small businesses

Collaborative Robots foster a harmonious partnership between humans and machines making them the perfect integrated solution for small-medium manufacturers. The robots can work alongside personnel with no safety guarding after risk assessment and are easily moved around production sites to complete detailed tasks.

Collaborative Robotics are growing at a phenomenal rate and are forecast to become the largest robotics sector globally by 2025. This is good news for small-medium sized manufacturers, as a number of trends that are contributing to the growth of Collaborative Robots (Cobots) will also benefit smaller scale operations and industries previously thought to be the exclusive domain of heavy industrial robotics. 

In recent years, Cobots have become affordable and flexible enough in their tasks to become feasible for small manufacturers to invest in. A lower price point means a smaller initial investment for these companies, leading to a better return on investment, making Cobots easier and faster to integrate than heavier industrial robots. With price becoming less and less of a barrier to automation, new industries are installing and experimenting with Cobots.

With this increase in popularity and potential to enter new industries apparent, the way Cobots function had to change. Cobots are advancing at a faster rate, becoming increasingly safer, utilizing a wider range of sensors and closed feedback loops to make them more aware of their human programmers. These safety advances redefine how humans can work with machines, allowing Cobots to physically interact with their human operators across a range of manufacturing segments, from medical device production to small shop tool & die.

Along with advances in safety sensors monitoring the physical presence of the Cobot, these robots are also at the forefront of machine learning and artificial intelligence. But while these advances are complex and technical in nature, Cobots are increasingly configured to work without sophisticated code or even an engineer, meaning they are more accessible and easier to work with for small-medium manufacturers. That accessibility is a major factor in making Cobots a perfect choice for smaller businesses. 

Companies who use Collaborative Robots generally report less idle worker time, better work conditions and fewer RSI related injuries. Companies also experience better productivity and overall operating efficiency of their production machinery when using Cobots. The multi-functional robots are also being adapted for a range of applications showing that Cobots can, and are, moving into previously unexplored sectors like food & beverage, retail, health and education, among others. Some Cobots assist neurosurgeons during surgery, some film football matches in Europe, and another makes custom flip-flops. "Our robots do the dirty, dull, and dangerous tasks people don't want to do," Scott Mabie, Universal Robots general manager, says.

Employees require minimal training to learn how to teach a robot a certain task and put it to work, he says. The ease of adoption is important as employees--to avoid losing their jobs--essentially have to learn how to operate the robot. In free-drive mode, an operator manually moves the arm through a task and the movements are recorded and programmed into the software. Robots don’t steal jobs from humans -“what they do is allow employees to enhance positions they are in" said Scott Mabie

Collaborative Robots with their high safety standard and cutting edge yet user-friendly programming make them suitable for work on a wide range of industries and various applications. With their increasing popularity and adaptable natures, small-medium manufacturers are best placed to benefit from introducing Collaborative Robots to their business.

Contact our team to find out more about Collaborative Robots and how they can benefit your business.


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