The Most Popular Use Cases for Collaborative Robots Outside of Manufacturing
We often hear about collaborative robots' economic and productivity benefits in manufacturing. However, many industries outside of manufacturing are also seeking the benefits and worker advantages of adding cobots to their operations as well. The flexibility of collaborative robots and the variety of tasks they can manage make them an excellent addition to many workforces.
Think for a moment about your day-to-day operations. For example, do your employees regularly perform any of the following functions? If so, your organization might benefit from the addition of robotic collaborators.
Pick and Place: Do your employees perform the repetitive and mundane task of picking products or parts up and placing them somewhere else. Our customers have found that when workers are relied on to perform dull and routine jobs, there is a higher likelihood that they will make mistakes. The repetitive pick and place motions can also result in strains and injuries. Cobots, equipped with vision systems can often perform these tasks more efficiently and consistently. This change gives your human workers the time and space to focus on what humans do best—critical thinking and creativity.
Consumer product warehouses and fulfillment centers are prominent hubs of pick and place and often use collaborative robots. However, you might be surprised to know that cobots can perform the picking and placing of very delicate items. Gripper manufacturing and programming have come a long way, and now there is a gripper available for virtually anything. For example, collaborative robots are used in the agricultural industry for picking and placing tender seedlings. In the food industry, they are used for picking and placing fragile items such as raw eggs.
Machine Tending: Machine tending is like pick and place in that it is often a repetitive function. The employee loads a part into the CNC machine to turn, cut or mill the part, and the employee unloads the finished piece. Repeat ad nauseam.
However, machine tending can be a bit more hazardous for the worker than picking and placing. The machine itself or the surrounding environment can potentially cause injury. For this reason, machine tending currently represents the largest application of cobots for industrial automation, according to the Association for Advancing Automation. But here again, it's not just factories that benefit.
For example, consider excavation in the construction or mining industries. A construction site in Northern China recognized that the high temperatures, sun, and excessive dust were impacting the health of their human operators. The integrators had an idea—install remotely operated robotic "arms" in the cockpit of the excavator. We developed and designed two 6-joint EC63 collaborative robot supports placed inside the excavator's cabin. The human operator could control the cobot from a safe environment. Should a human need to enter the cab, the robot's arms could be folded back, out of the way.
Machine tending isn't the only place collaborative robots can be used in construction. A 2020 paper published by IEEE questioned why we don't see more robots in construction, especially for repetitive tasks. Researchers developed a proof-of-concept dedicated to screwing gypsum board panels to the ceiling of a room. They first identified the challenges related to that task and then implemented a collaborative robot solution. Their results showed that not only did the cobot perform with consistent accuracy, but it could also help workers by removing ergonomic strain.
Packaging and Palletizing: This function prepares products for shipping, whether those products are shipping directly to the consumer, or they are being moved to a different building, or just somewhere else on the floor. Packaging and palletizing could consist of boxing, shrink-wrapping, and stacking on pallets. It often requires heavy lifting, which is another dangerous and exhausting task for humans. Cobots are built for heavy lifting, and they never get tired or end up with back pain or strains.
For example, Grocery chains are using cobots in their warehouses for this very purpose. The robot can work without a break packaging product to ship out to stores across the county, and they can do it faster than a human. Speed is critical because you don't make money if you can't get product out the door quickly.
Quality Inspections: No one wants to ship defective products; therefore, businesses of all types conduct quality inspections to catch potential problems. A study in the Journal of Applied Sciences found that repetition can cause workers to feel tired and indirectly causes them to lose their concentration while performing the same movements over a long period. That loss of concentration during the inspection process could be the difference between life and death in healthcare.
For example, products such as vaccines, drugs, and medical devices undergo a strict and repetitive quality control process. It is a great example of a job that a collaborative robot can do faster and more consistently than most humans. In the case of medical devices, the cobot can quickly compare the finished device with a CAD model. Add several high-resolution cameras to your cobot, and it can capture multiple angles simultaneously, unlike humans who must turn it over and around to see all sides.
Collaborative Baristas: The pandemic has been especially hard on food service workers. Even once restaurants re-opened, servers were leaving the workforce in droves because they were afraid of the exposure that came with interacting with hundreds of strangers day after day. That mass exodus affected both dine-in and takeout business owners.
We don't think society is at a point where fine-dining servers will be replaced by robot waiters. Still, cobots can perform some repetitive hospitality functions with no worries about passing on a virus or even getting one. Could we interest you in a delicious cup of bubble tea? Our robots deployed at a bubble tea kiosk in Shanghai never forget an order nor do they get tired when pulling a double or, dare we say, triple shift.
When you consider the tasks in your organization that could be done safely and effectively by a collaborative robot, we encourage you to include your employees in the conversation. First, ask them what jobs they find repetitive and dull in their day-to-day work. Then ask what they would like to do with their creative and critical thinking brain once a collaborative robot relieved them of the most mind-numbing and physically damaging tasks. Collaborative robots are just that—collaborative. They are designed and engineered to work alongside human workers, not replace them entirely. So, if you have tasks that require the accuracy of a robot and the problem-solving skills of humans, now might be the time to invest in a cobot.
Elite Robot has three sizes to choose from, 3, 6, and 12 Kg payloads to fit most of the applications in a manufacturing plant. Starting at $14000.00 complete with a 6 DOF robot arm, teach pendant, and control box with software. Call us today for a quote or a demo of our collaborative robots.