Another industrial revolution
We are witnessing the fourth industrial revolution, referred to as digitization and the development of artificial intelligence. Its result is the merging of the real and the digital world. Historically, the first revolution was initiated by the invention of the steam engine, the second was the discovery and dissemination of electricity, and the third was the development of electronics and computer science. While the first revolution involved the replacement of the work of human muscles, the current revolution aims to improve and sometimes replace the work of the human mind. This revolution is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges facing humanity so far. It is worth mentioning the components of these changes, which are: Artificial intelligence, Machine learning, IoT (Internet of Things), Big Data or Cooperating robots. Starting with the first revolution, each subsequent one is getting faster and brings bigger challenges.
Cobots as an important component of Industry 4.0
According to a McKinsey report, there is potential in Poland to automate 49% of work performed by 2030, which is associated with the automation and robotization of up to 7.3 million jobs. Of course, not all places will be automated due to mental, legislative or economic barriers. However, the potential for change is huge and entails many opportunities and challenges.
One of the relatively young and significant trends of the fourth revolution are the so-called collaborative robots. Coboty. Their great advantage is that they learn easily and quickly by intuitively showing what to do. You no longer need to write complex algorithms in complicated programming tools. As practice shows, already several dozen minutes of learning will allow everyone to program simple activities. In turn, a few hours of training will allow you to take advantage of the advanced functions of modern Cobots, which certainly include strength control in all joints or the use of vision systems. Cobots also create the opportunity to work safely with people. In the event of unplanned contact with people, Cobot will simply stop and withdraw. As a result, there is no need for him to build safety cages, and the plant takes up little space.
Does Cobot fit into every factory?
We often come across the question about the suitability of Cobot in a particular production plant. This question is a consequence of the fact that for over 40 years, mainly international multinationals with high production volumes have been able to afford traditional robots. Traditional robots were also expensive, difficult to program and adapt to new applications, which significantly limited the field of their application. Entrepreneurs, like hardly anyone, can perfectly count and evaluate the usefulness of modern solutions in their daily work. Cobots, thanks to quick and easy programming, allow to robotize short- and medium-series production areas. The cooperating robot can work at the CNC machining center for 6 hours to operate the press brake in a moment for the next 9 hours – we quickly and easily adopt it for new tasks. It is worth mentioning that Cobot works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing us with 100% repeatability, which is reflected in the high quality of work performed. There is no risk of fatigue in the workplace or routine at the workplace, which cause quality errors and sometimes dangerous to people accidents at work.
These works are also a large and dynamically growing segment of robotics, where the phenomenon of scale makes them available to small and medium-sized companies. We often observe the positive surprise of future users, when it turns out that the cost of Cobot is comparable to the cost of several months of salary of an employee of the production line or operating the machine. In Poland, we are currently recording a very dynamic increase in Cobot sales, which is on the one hand the result of problems finding employees, and on the other hand caused by pressure on the global market, where companies already using Cobots are simply more effective, offering cheaper, higher quality products. In the current situation, the question is no more whether to use Coboty, but how and when?
What are the conclusions?
To sum up, cooperating robots ceased to be just a technical novelty, proving to be an indispensable element of modern factories. In the era of increasing competitiveness, decreasing workforce as a result of aging populations, Cobots are becoming a necessity, while helping to increase efficiency and quality. According to research by BCG [Boston Consulting Group], in 2015, works performed 10% of industrial activities, and it is estimated that in 2025 it will already be 25% and will continue to grow. Every year, the dynamics of this segment of robotics record dynamic growth, which proves their high practical usefulness in industry. They have in mind the pace of the fourth industrial revolution, Cobotization has long been a foregone conclusion, only questions sometimes arise, how and when? It should be noted, however, that we have less and less time to respond, because the revolution continues.