The use of collaborative robots (cobots) in manufacturing has become an essential component of automation in the industry. Companies attest to their effectiveness in improving productivity that then leads to growth and sustainability.
According to Universal Robots, a Danish manufacturer of smaller flexible industrial collaborative robot arms, the push toward automation “has never been so emphasized and necessary” amid the pandemic. As a result of lockdowns, workers were not allowed to travel and restrictions of mass gatherings made it impossible for them to go to factories.
The collaborative nature of the cobots allowed manufacturing operations to run as scheduled “even with less human intervention, while still realizing productivity gains and business continuity.”
However, there are companies that remain apprehensive in utilizing cobots because of misconceptions as well as limited information on its benefits.
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“Over time, there are still apparent debates about whether adopting automation such as cobots is efficient for companies. In the Philippines, conversations are about cost, job loss, and safety is paramount. Primarily, cobots can add up to the effectiveness of human labor, can be deployed regardless the scale of operation, and can be easily maintained that is safe and cost-efficient,” said Darrell Adams, head of Southeast Asia & Oceania for Universal Robots, a Denmark-based collaborative robots (cobots) technology market leader.
To address these “myths,” Universal Robots provides a rundown of explanation on why cobots are gaining ground in the manufacturing industry.
1. Cobots will replace human labor
According to Universal Robots, cobots actually relieve workers from strenuous and repetitive tasks. While there are some tasks that may have been taken over by robots, other jobs emerged within the industry and within the companies.
Citing a World Bank’s Enterprise Survey for the Philippines, Universal Robots said, “on average, firms that deployed partial or full automation in their operations would likely to hire more workers. A World Economic Forum study suggests that by 2022, robots may create about 133 million jobs globally, but no machine will ever replace human dexterity, critical thinking, decision-making, and creativity.
2. Robotics automation is for complex, large-scale operations
Many Filipino manufacturers think of robots as the image of a large, lumbering box used on assembly lines. The reality is, with the flexibility of cobots, companies can automate even the simplest of tasks. Regardless of the scale of output, cobots can be deployed for processes that are repetitive, manual, or potentially strenuous for workers such as pick and place, packaging and palletizing, screw driving, gluing, dispensing, and welding.
3. It’s a hassle to implement and maintain robots
Compared to “robots,” cobots are easy to implement, operate, and maintain. Cobots are compact and lightweight that there is no need to change the production layout when switching the cobot between tasks. They are easily programmed or re-deployed and require minimal maintenance. So operations will not be affected despite the shortage of Filipino workers in factories.
4. Cobots are dangerous
Cobots are different from traditional industrial robots. They are created with safety in mind, reducing safety risks for workers. Specifically designed to work in conjunction with human workers, they perform best as a minimally disruptive solution to safety concerns. Given their built-in safety functions, cobots and individuals can work in tandem without needing cages (subject to assessment).
5. Cobots are costly
For cobots, upfront costs are typically cheaper than traditional robots, with an average payback period as short as twelve months. Cobots are cost-effective and their installation requires minimal investment, given they do not need major infrastructure changes. Unlike traditional robots, they can also be redeployed to different functions in the production line and used around-the-clock.
According to Universal Robots, while there is so much catching up to do in terms of technological advancement in the Philippines, the country is definitely setting its sights on exponential growth and sustainability with the help of automation. Automation with humanity in mind is not just possible, but sustainable and safe, with the use of collaborative robots or cobots humming along with humans.