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Are Cobots The Future Of Work?

collaborative robot

Advantages of Collaborative Robots (Cobotics)

Noise, repetitive motion, and risk-filled environments – some industrial jobs are notoriously difficult. And while automated processes can improve productivity, they fail to employ people-specific skills like decision-making and analysis. Beyond pure automation, the emergence of ‘cobotics’ (a portmanteau of ‘cooperation’ and ‘robotics’) pairs people with machines to boost performance. 

This article explores the emerging cobotics field and discusses five crucial advantages of its machines, before introducing the first human-inspired cobot, Whiz, from SoftBank Robotics.

Are cobots the future of work?

Although automation is undoubtedly gaining traction, instead of imagining a dystopian future where warehouses, factories, and worksites are staffed entirely by robots, imagine what robotic precision mixed with human innovation could do. That’s the concept behind cobotics – capitalising on the strengths of both robots and people to create a harmonious, more productive workflow.

Under cobotics, arduous, repetitive tasks or those to which people add little value are transferred to collaborative robots, or ‘cobots.’ Cobots assist their human operators by augmenting their capabilities, enabling them to manipulate parts that are hot, heavy, bulky, or too intricate for precision handling. A helpful way to highlight cobots’ utility is the three E’s: efficiency, effectiveness, and enhancement.  We’ll now unpack these terms by discussing the five main advantages of cobots.

Five advantages of collaborative robots

  1. Increased efficiency

When working with traditional robots, operators typically load parts to a fixture, conveyor, or turntable before leaving the workspace and allowing the robot to do its work. However, with collaborative robots, operators give the part directly to the cobot without leaving the workspace – saving time, costs, and floor space.

In a study conducted by MIT researchers at a BMW factory, teams comprising people and cobots were shown to be more productive than teams made of either humans or robots alone. In fact, human idle time was reduced by 85% when collaborating with a cobot.

  1. Ideal for companies of all sizes

Initially used by industrial manufacturers, cobots are being swiftly implemented by small to midsize organisations. These smaller companies stand to benefit from cobots and their various industrial applications, such as cleaning, assembly, loading, packaging, sorting, dispensing, sanding, and polishing.

  1. Increased return on investment (ROI)

With today’s collaborative technology, more firms are gaining swift ROIs in cobots and related training. And because these robots can be co-located to work directly next to their human counterpart, there are fewer barriers to work around. Essentially, you’ll be increasing productivity while implementing futureproof technology.

  1. Greater environmental flexibility

Cobots can work in complex human environments without being encumbered by large cages, external sensors, and barriers that accompany traditional robots. This enables facilities to deploy cobots and people in a shared workspace, allowing greater flexibility.

  1. Handle complex, dangerous tasks safely

Working side-by-side with their human counterparts, cobots can complete complex, often dangerous tasks that pose risks to people. Applications like steadying the motion of surgical tools or lab operations to prevent human error are at the forefront of cobotics, paving the way for us to reap cobots’ inherent benefits while improving complex, dangerous methods.

Whiz – the collaborative cobot

Whiz (click here for a 360 view) is the first human-inspired cobot – that means it’s operated by and works in harmony with your cleaning team. Once briefed, Whiz can memorise up to 600 cleaning routes and vacuum 1,500m2 of carpet on a single charge, leaving your cleaners free to focus on more skilled cleaning tasks.

How does Whiz work?

Whiz’s 2D camera reads the home location code, while its LiDAR sensor and 3D cameras use infrared rays to detect the shape of space and obstacles, before mapping the floor surroundings. What’s more, its thermal detection capabilities enable it to see objects in smoke, fog, and dark areas that are not visible to the human eye.

Why choose Whiz?

Smarter cleaning; liberated teams

The cobotics revolution spells the end of arduous manual vacuuming. With Whiz, you can automate these tasks and free up your workforce to focus on tasks that only people can complete.

Superior performance

Whiz outperforms manual vacuum cleaners, carrying out a deeper carpet clean to consistently high standards that you can track and monitor.

Improves health & wellbeing

Whiz lightens your staff’s load by handling the hard labour, creating a healthier, more hygienic work environment while reducing absenteeism.

You can read more about how Whiz can be used to improve the efficiency of cleaning teams in the full product brochure.

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