• A Universal Robots cobot in action.
    A Universal Robots cobot in action.

The manufacturing sector is in focus as countries around the world work to rebuild and accelerate its economies, and as the sector works to regain momentum, James McKew, regional director for Universal Robots APAC, says businesses are currently scrambling to solve the problem of working with less people while delivering more.

McKew says border closures, a lack of human labour, the cost of human labour, and reduced mobility has given rise to collaborative robot (cobot) deployment. 

Giving credence to this, Global News Wire also recently reported a projected 44.8 per cent CAGR in the industrial cobot market for the forecast period of 2021-26, which further equates to $12.48 billion in growth revenue. 

“In Asia, cobots are being rapidly deployed in the food and pharmaceutical industries,” McKew says.

“We’ve also seen a global trend in cobots being deployed in the electronics sector, largely due to the notable work-from-home movement and the need for enhanced quality in this sector.”

James McKew, regional director for Universal Robots APAC.
James McKew, regional director for Universal Robots APAC.

McKew explains that the cost of poor quality in high quality goods, such as electronics, has long plagued the industry. 

“Manufacturing defects amongst expensive items such as LCD screens, computer screens and laptops places manufacturers at risk, and this is where cobots come in,” he adds. 

On local shores, McKew notes an increase in cobot enquiries, particularly from the food, metals and machining, life sciences, and pharmaceutical industries.

“Australian companies are starting to ask themselves, 'How do we use robots in our manufacturing?',” explains McKew.

“In the life sciences sector for instance, we are seeing an increase in demand for cobot and human collaboration where these two can work side-by-side. 

“In terms of applications of interest, cobots are commonly used for materials handling, such as picking and placing, as well as in quality and inspection applications.”

Speaking to the increase in consumer demand for electronic goods locally, McKew notes that while Australia and New Zealand aren’t prominent producers of electronic goods, these are still found in many processes.

In fact, Universal Robots recently partnered with REDARC Electronics to help it with its smart factory goals.

“In the electronics sector, cobots are a great way to ensure consistent quality and can work efficiently with small, difficult parts,” says McKew.

“With many export products residing in New Zealand, the innovative implementation by manufacturers throughout the pandemic has been impressive.

“For instance, we are seeing more enquiries from large technology companies in search of cobot technology.”

In addition, McKew says there is an uptick in the use of cobots for 7-axis applications; so much so, that Universal Robots has welcomed the HIWIN 7 Axis Kit into its cobot ecosystem.

“Here, cobots are used to load and offload multiple machines as a flexible alternative to human labour,” McKew continues. 

“In the past, one 7-axis with traditional automation would take months to design and deploy for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but with cobots, this process has been simplified – all at a reduced cost.”

Rapid deployment is crucial

McKew says the main value proposition of a cobot is its rapid deployment capability. 

“A business’ value proposition is focused on pivoting to meet new demands – it’s looking at both the short and long term objectives and preparing ourselves for every eventuality,” explains McKew.

“Manufacturers are privy to rapid shifts in demand. Product lifecycles are becoming shorter, while changes and advancements to new products are becoming greater. Designs need to be smarter and compact while working harder. 

“A key competitive advantage to cobot deployment is exactly this – easy to deploy, fast, cost-effective, and efficient.

“Keeping your finger on the pulse and rapid response is crucial to the success of every manufacturer – now more than ever.”

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