Misconceptions continue to linger as workers still view advanced automation as a threat to their employment, however, Universal Robots believes that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

According to James McKew, regional director for Asia-Pacific at Universal Robots, the proof lies in the name.

“Collaborative robots, or cobots, are not a threat to human labour, they help to enhance the quality of production and the ability for humans and robots to collaborate,” McKew said.

“The fear of robots taking over is natural. However, in the manufacturing environment, their purpose is to guide people who are capable of managing production processes, and get them to manage robots that do the dull, dusty, monotonous and non-creative aspects of production processes.” 

James McKew, regional director for Asia-Pacific at Universal Robots.
James McKew, regional director for Asia-Pacific at Universal Robots.

He adds that cobots should not be confused with industrial robots, as cobots are “designed to be human-friendly, they have systems on-board that can detect humans, and they do not need to be caged”.

“Cobots will not hurt humans whereas industrial robots may. They are easy to use, easy to program and lightweight. In fact, even operators with limited programming skills can become cobot programmers,” continued McKew. 

Universal Robots said that now, in a time of ongoing lockdowns, border closures and heightened concerns around health and safety, cobots allows for “business as usual” – even in the most unprecedented of times.

Adding to this, according to Universal, is the reliance on a global supply chain by local manufacturers who are changing their production over to bring manufacturing home and ensure business continuity. 

“Cobots act as a lifeline for local businesses that need to accelerate local manufacturing. Cobots ensure enhanced productivity, reduced errors and improved efficiencies,” explained McKew.

“In addition, cobots allow production workers to start mastering robotics and training cobots to do the dull, monotonous jobs that talented and dexterous humans should not be doing. 

“Also, with an ageing population in the manufacturing sector, and fewer young people wanting to do manual factory tasks, cobots are helping to transform this space into a more attractive working environment for the younger workforce.” 

What the future holds

McKew sees robot cell operators enhancing processes and adding value to human-machine operators, as they can be tended by several cobots, while a person is left in chargeof managing all of these. 

“They program them, optimise them and determine if there are more creative ways that the cobots can be used to enhance production output,” McKew said. 

“The opportunities are immense for countries to resume production. Cobots, along with talented manufacturing workers provide companies with massive opportunities for efficient reshoring in the post-pandemic world.”

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