Dispelling myths about collaborative robots to help you leverage them for a competitive advantage

Since the advent of robots back in 1961, myths upon myths have dogged the robotics industry, and they have played a critical role in slowing down adoption. Even as recently as ten years ago, when collaborative robots were just beginning to make their mark, some of these myths persisted.

The situation is better now, and the robotics industry is experiencing growth like never before. According to research, the collaborative robots market will be worth roughly $1 billion come next year—2020. That is a huge improvement from below $400 million in 2017 and $600 million in 2018.

However, for the cobot industry to fully blow up and be worth billions and billions of dollars, some myths need to be dispelled.

Myth one: that collaborative robots are expensive

Any automation costs money. However, the fact that robot manufacturers have now developed advanced factories that are capable of churning out cobots in large quantities means that collaborative robots cost less than ever before. The cost of production is no longer high, and as a result, the cobot price tag is favorable.

Second, robots are a low-risk investment. Why? Because if demand changes or a business decides to start manufacturing different products to maintain a competitive advantage; they can redeploy the robots at very little cost. Essentially, all the business will need to do is buy a different end-effector.

In contrast, another option such as dedicated hard automation will require boatloads of money to reconfigure the set-up or equipment. Also, when the equipment wears out, and it is time to replace it, it offers no residual value. Worn out collaborative robots can be repurposed.

Myth two: collaborative robots are only fit for high-volume operations

High volume operations are those that can turn out hundreds or thousands of units or products per day.

With industrial robots, this myth might have been true. However, collaborative robots can handle both high-volume and low-volume operations. Some cobots are better suited for low to middle volume operations.

Consider, for instance, a vision system whose key role is identifying parts to reduce the quantity of hard tooling required. Identifying parts is a low-volume operation, and yet the use of robots plays a great role in streamlining the overall production process for maximum throughput and productivity.

Another scenario to consider is an assembly system. Any assembly system is at best a medium-volume operation and to fully visualize this, consider the real-life example of a Nissan Motor Company in Japan.

The company wanted to streamline the production process in addition to finding a solution to its aging workforce. To solve the issues, they purchased a Universal Robots robotic arm—the UR10. The robotic arm was used to loosen the bolts on a cylinder head cam brackets. Later, the UR10 cobots were further integrated into the assembly process to help install engine blocks intake manifolds.

Myth three: collaborative robots are difficult to program

Modern-day collaborative robots barely require any programming. The robots come equipped with software that makes training the robot a matter of following simple instructions. For instance, a UR robot with UR+ software can quickly program a robotic path with the highest level of precision.

Myth four: collaborative robots will take away jobs from people

Arguably the biggest myth that people have about collaborative robots. The best way to dispel this myth is to start with some hard facts. Between 2008 and 2011, a time when collaborative robots had just made a debut, an independent study found that robots created between 500,000 and 750,000 jobs.

Fast forward to 2019 and another report indicates that a combination of AI, machine learning and robotics will create 58 million jobs by 2022.

Another report by IFR (International Federation of Robotics) used real-world examples to prove that robots create jobs. According to the report, the US automotive industry installed over 60,000 robot units between 2010 and 2015, and yet within that same period, the number of human employees increased by 230,000.

Last word

Now that you know all these myths about cobots are not true, it is time to put away fear and leverage collaborative robots for a competitive advantage. Research indicates that the ROI time for robot automation is less than one year.

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