There has been a lot of talk about the emergence of collaborative robotics in all industries. Naturally, this has led to a lot of questions from executives like you on what they mean for their businesses and their potential going forward. There is no doubt that collaborative robotics is a game-changer, with the market set to grow exponentially over the next few years.
What does collaborative robotics mean for businesses looking to automate their operations or expand their production capacities? How can your business benefit from collaborative robotics?
There are five key points of interest for businesses in collaborative robotics: reduced cost of automation, human-robot interaction, intelligent robot applications, safety guidelines, and widened application areas as will now be introduced here.[lwptoc]
Reduced Cost of Automation
In the last five years or so, one of the main talking points in industrial automation circles has been the reducing cost of industrial robots. Industrial robot prices have dropped by over 40% in the last ten years and set to drop by a further 65% in the next few years. This, according to a detailed robotics market outlook published recently.
Part of the reason why industrial robotics has fallen has to do with increased demand for automation amid international trade uncertainties and perennial labor shortages. However, an even bigger impact on the price has to do with the entrance of new, cheaper collaborative robotic solutions originally made for the SMEs.
The price of a modern collaborative robot arm is way lower than what a traditional industrial robot arm would have costed a few years ago. Industrial robot manufacturers have recognized this and are now busy making these cheap but versatile robotic arms for small businesses looking for automation.
As reported in the PWC report referred to earlier, the US income tax overhaul of 2017 also made it possible for SMEs and even larger companies to ramp up automation. The low cost of purchasing and running a collaborative robot for industrial applications must, therefore, be considered in any executive decision on automation going forward.
The phrase “human-robot-interaction” is another key talking point regarding modern industrial automation. If having workers working side by side with assistive machines makes sense for you, then you should be thinking about collaborative robots. Now, those looking to adopt automation without significant cutbacks on staffing can do so with collaborative robotics.
Essentially, the philosophy behind this new wave of industrial collaborative robotics is the presence of a human in the production process. Unlike traditional automation deployments, industrial collaborative robotics allow companies to increase production by having both humans and robots on the same factory floor. In a way, collaborative robotics bears some similarities with Henry’s Ford’s original assembly line, albeit with much more production capacity, less human labor, and higher efficiency.
Intelligent Robot Applications
The principle behind traditional industrial robotics is efficiency though predictable, repetitive robot operations. Consequently, not many of the traditional industrial robots possess any kind of intelligence to make smart decisions for versatility or efficiency.
In stark contrast, collaborative robotics comes with a fair amount of AI and machine learning for versatility and efficiency. Collaborative robotic arms used in the industry today can make intelligent decisions and handle a variety of tasks without much reprogramming or redeployments. This means a lot for businesses looking for automation solutions going forward.
One of the biggest barriers to automation for SMEs has been the safety requirements and associated costs with traditional robots. They required safety fencing and a number of other safety measures to be deployed safely and pass regulatory requirements in most countries. It, therefore, does not come as a surprise that the introduction of collaborative robots has suddenly shifted the ground and made automation accessible to SMEs.
Collaborative robots don’t require complicated safety setups to be deployed. In most cases, they don’t even need specialized factory setups or workstations. This allows any business to adopt them with ease and without restricting their current work setup for them.
Widened Application Areas
For the longest time, major industrial applications were in heavy industrial setups such as automotive manufacturing and assembly. While this largely remains the case, the emergence of cheap collaborative robotics is widening the application areas for industrial automation solutions. For instance, businesses such as SME machining shops that wouldn’t typically afford an industrial robot are now becoming a driving force behind modern industrial robot adoption.
A lot is happening in the industrial automation space that is positive for businesses looking to adopt automation in the next few years. If there was a time to move your business to robotics, this is perhaps the best time to start having a serious discussion about it at the top level.