Leading innovation Cobot as a good investment Leading innovation In the manufacturing industry, a collaborative robot or cobot is a safe tool that improves the quality of production, efficiency and work ergonomics. The investment will also pay itself back quickly, often in less than a year. In spite of their clear benefits, the attitude towards robots in the industry is still conservative. Share this story: As the name suggests, the collaborative robot was designed to work together, side by side, with humans. Unlike a traditional industrial robot that can handle loads weighing hundreds of kilos at high speeds, a cobot does not need to be isolated. Without strong safety measures, a tall industrial robot is dangerous enough for a human to stay away from it. Safety is in fact one of a cobot’s key benefits. They are usually only capable of manipulating loads up to 10–12 kg, and they work at low speeds and acceleration rates. That is why cobots do not need to be enclosed in a cage; they are perfectly safe colleagues for their human counterparts. Traditional industries known for their extremely high safety and quality standards, such as the automotive and pharmaceutical industries, have discovered cobots. Their safety is based on general international standards and they have TÜV approval, for example. Robots improve ergonomics, quality and efficiency Many Chinese and Indian automotive manufacturers, such as Bajaj Auto, are using cobots for quality. A cobot is able to perform final assembly tasks that are unpleasant, ergonomically strenuous or otherwise poorly suited for humans. These tasks may involve repetition, precision, lifts or, say, rotary movements. Few people enjoy driving screws, for example, if they must do it for long periods of time. A robot, on the other hand, is in its element with a screwdriver, and it never gets tired – let alone bored. A robot thus undeniably has a positive impact on a production facility’s work ergonomics. When ergonomics is in order, personnel’s efficiency improves, quality errors decrease and sick leave rates decline. Mental wellbeing at work also improves: a healthy employee is more motivated, and when a robot takes charge of monotonous and numbing work, humans can focus on more enjoyable tasks. A cobot also helps improve the quality and efficiency of production in other ways. For example, it can be programmed to bring the right number of components in the right order to the workstation for assembly by a human. When the workstation is in order and there is always exactly the required number of components available, no errors can occur in the assembly process. When it comes to efficiency, it is worth noting that a robot can perform many operations much faster than a human. One robot can serve the workstations of two people, which means that instead of four people, only two people and one robot are required for the work. Finally, working several shifts in a row is no problem for a robot. A risk-free investment that pays itself back quickly Even though there are millions of cobots working relentlessly worldwide, they are still fairly rare in Finland, for example. In Europe, the automotive industry has tapped into the potential of cobots relatively well, but the real forerunner in this field is China. In China, robotics investments are prompted by not only increased labor costs but also the country’s strong desire to be a technology leader in various fields. However, the factor that holds the most weight is quality: the quality requirements of Western customers of companies operating in China are very high, and practical experience has shown that a robot delivers more consistent quality than a human. In light of the above-mentioned advantages, it is surprising to see so much resistance towards robotics. In Finland, the manufacturing industry is too conservative, perhaps even a little prejudiced, about the technology: many companies seem to fear – without reason – that the operational reliability or the quality it delivers will fail to meet expectations. Cobots may also be considered costly investments, even though this is not true anymore. The truth is that an investment in a cobot will pay itself back in no time at all. The investment’s total costs are low, in fact on a par with the average annual salary of a production worker. Based on this mathematics, the investment can pay itself back in as little as one year – if not faster. A cobot investment will improve the production facility’s productivity, thus helping to improve the company’s operating conditions. Following this line of thought, they can also be seen as having a positive impact on maintaining employment at the factory. And finally: the investment is practically risk-free, as the suitability of the cobot for production can today be tested in a digital environment. If the virtual modelling shows that the robot is not suited for the tasks it was meant to perform, the industrial company avoids making a bad investment decision.