Universal Robots outlines why smart automation doesn’t always mean AI. Deploying collaborative automation and implementing robots simply as a tool, is the answer to many UK manufacturers’ current concerns.

In most cases the automation needs of UK manufacturers are relatively simple. They must increase levels of output per worker to address labour shortages and a competitive marketplace. Plus, they must enable greater levels of product customisation to meet customer demand.

Some will argue the factory of the future requires a wholesale (and expensive!) digital transformation, with buzzwords like artificial intelligence freely bandied about. However, for those that find this overwhelming, we have a simple message. Robotics is nothing to be frightened of. In fact, you can bring automation into your business simply by viewing robots as a tool!

Our cobots are already delivering real value for manufacturers of all sizes by carrying out straightforward tasks that were previously done by hand. Collaborative robots were developed for this purpose specifically, to work side by side and under the supervision of human workers. Instead of seizing the role of the human worker, they take over the most time sensitive and laborious tasks, leaving their human co-workers to complete more rewarding responsibilities which require human intuition and creativity. Our cobots don’t need to “think” for themselves. Instead they take on the dull, dirty or, dangerous jobs, leaving human co-workers to make more rewarding contributions.

Viewing cobots simply as tools, just like any other object that increases efficiency and eases the employees’ work-load, is a great way to introduce automation into a business. Many tasks performed in production facilities can be automated and deploying a cobot saves workers from performing a repetitive and mindless task which may cause injuries and high staff turnover rates.

These light-weight, easy-to-program, flexible and affordable cobots play a vital role in democratising robotic automation so that virtually any business anywhere can use them to boost their competitiveness. Another benefit of cobots is that they have a small physical footprint and do not require safety guarding. This is important for SMEs as deploying cobots causes minimal disturbance to working operations and, unlike industrial robots which require huge floor-plan redesigns, cobots can seamlessly be placed into existing factory operations.

For example, the staff at Singapore-based, Clearpack has discovered first-hand the benefits of introducing cobots into its production line. Clearpack was quickly able to design a safe, compact and easy-to-use palletising solution comprising a UR10 cobot and the LIFTKIT by SKF Motion Technologies. The right application and a proper design of accessories allowed the team put together a system without a safety guard, negating the need for additional costs for the installation and factory floor re-design. The only job of the cobots is to take on the heavily lifting. Yet this simple change has helped numerous Clearpack customers in the FMCG sector to optimise their warehouse space and enjoy a fast return on investment (ROI).

Therefore, manufacturers shouldn’t get overwhelmed by the numerous smart technologies that are available or by the idea that all businesses need to undergo a complete and instant digital transformation in order to survive. Automation comes in many shapes and forms, and cobots enable SMEs to take these first steps while still maintaining the flexibility necessary to allow businesses to adapt to meet changing market demands. Cobots should simply be viewed as another tool in the tool box, brought in to both enhance and ease the workload for employees.

To find out more visit https://www.universal-robots.com/, or you can read the full case study here: https://www.universal-robots.com/case-stories/clearpack/