Author: Peter Hern, Country Manager, Oceania, Universal Robots
A study of the largest goods-exporting nations in the world has found that Australia’s manufacturing cost structure is around 30% higher than that in the US, and the highest out of all the countries involved in the research. This comes at the same time as increased competitiveness amongst businesses, with e-commerce rapidly changing the environment.
With production costs higher than ever, enterprises should be looking at more affordable solutions to ensure their long-term sustainability.
Collaborative robots, or cobots, work side-by-side with people and are used by production staff to help them work smarter, improving output, results and yields to achieve higher productivity. Not only are the benefits of cobots visible when it comes to efficiency, they can also ease production costs, which is a challenge often faced in businesses operating with a production line.
Cobots, production costs and efficiency
Production costs can be reduced significantly with the use of cobots. Certain tasks can be expensive to automate and too tedious for human workers, and their implementation can drastically reduce the length of the supply chain. There is a real need for technology that can assist in adapting to customer requirements while maintaining quality and affordability.
Compared to traditional robots, cobots have enhanced in-built safety features, making it perfectly safe for people to work in close proximity. These safety features eliminate the need for fencing and bulky barriers, subject to risk assessments. They are also lightweight, small and compact compared with traditional industrial robots, meaning they are easily applicable in any environment. Considering one of the largest expenses that companies can face is the inefficient use of the space, the ability to incorporate cobots so seamlessly means there is no need for any under-utilised areas or resources.
Prysm Industries is just one example of a company that incorporated a cobot into its production line to meet its requirements. Every day the cobot is in operation, Prysm has reported a saving of $550 on labelling expenses alone, meaning it was able to pay for itself within a year. It also meant more flexibility and has helped contribute to a much happier workplace.
Deploying a cobot that is programmed to complete specific tasks with high accuracy, ensures consistency of products and a simpler quality assurance process. The redeployment possibilities can also lead to long term cost savings and attractive ROI.
Increase in productivity
While the decrease in production costs is a welcome one, deploying cobots also provides an increase in productivity, allowing operations to work for longer, faster and with improved accuracy over a 24-hour period. They can be set up to operate outside of regular business hours, allowing them to complete tasks overnight while employees rest.
By utilising cobots effectively, employees can focus on more interesting functions, adding to their own flexibility and autonomy in improving the business. Day-to-day operations are positively impacted, but offering more of a focus on quality, testing and ongoing maintenance in other areas ensures that productivity remains high with no time spent wasted on mundane tasks.
Given their ability to support humans at work, share human workload and reduce work hazards, cobots are a safe tool that can ensure healthy business growth. Staff can also be redeployed from dangerous tasks and occupational health and safety (OHS) hazards to other processes, and further employment opportunities can be created.
The idea of incorporating cobots into your work environment might seem daunting, but they are fast to deploy and user-friendly. Taking less than half a day to set up typically, cobots are also easy to program and reprogram with an intuitive programming feature. Employees can be educated in as little as 87 minutes on basic robot programming skills with the UR Academy, which provides free online training built to deliver hands-on learning via interactive simulations to maximise engagement.
Cobot deployment can also be flexible using modular implementation, which results in fast payback and easy redeployment, thus utilising cobots throughout their entire lifespan. Because of this, cobots carry an average payback period of 12 months.
With the global manufacturing industry changing and evolving with technological advancements, Australia cannot risk being left behind from high manufacturing costs. Improving efficiency and using cobots as a cost effective solution will allow for businesses to evolve and become more adaptable, saving them money and ensuring a sustainable future.
Universal Robots makes robot technology accessible to all by developing small, user-friendly, reasonably priced, flexible industrial robots that are safe to work with. Since the first collaborative robot (cobot) was launched in 2008, the company has experienced considerable growth with the user-friendly cobot now sold worldwide. Find out more at www.universal-robots.com.