Robotics

Collaborative robotics deliver faster ROI

Technology update: Collaborative robots used in industrial applications can be easier than traditional robotics for set up and redeploy producing rapid return on investments (ROIs) in a diversity of applications, according to one robot manufacturer.
By Mark T. Hoske August 11, 2019
Placing the fabric correctly into the snap fastening machines was difficult to do in a uniform fashion with manual labor, the Universal Robots UR5 enabled Zippertubing to triple the tolerancing. Courtesy: Universal Robots

Collaborative robots used in industrial applications can be easier than traditional robotics for specification, training, setup, integration with end-effectors and applications, operation and redeployment. Collaborative robots also can help manufacturing workers fill in where skilled labor resources are scarce, adding productivity, saving manufacturing jobs and expanding manufacturing competitiveness and opportunities, according to Early Ewing, UR+ product manager for Universal Robots.

Collaborative robots have simpler hardware, are easier to integrate into applications, and can have more favorable time-to-produce schedules. Courtesy: Universal Robots

Collaborative robots have simpler hardware, are easier to integrate into applications, and can have more favorable time-to-produce schedules. Courtesy: Universal Robots

In industrial implementations, collaborative robots can work in the same space with humans after an appropriate risk assessment. Compared to traditional industrial robots, Ewing said, collaborative robots can have faster setup, easier programming, more flexible deployment, limited space requirements, can work side by side with humans, and have a return on investment (ROI) of often a year or less, as explained in a July 31 webcast on return on investment (ROI) of collaborative robots,

Helps with manufacturing productivity

Collaborative robots’ ROI of one year or less, Ewing said, is strong compared to two years needed for many traditional robot applications. He also explained collaborative robots can help with manufacturing productivity in ways such as:

  • Humans working with machines can result in dynamic and adaptable production.
  • Robots help manufacturers grow even in this skill-labor-restricted current environment.
  • Skilled labor pressures in manufacturing are expected to continue with U.S. Baby Boomers reaching retirement age at a pace of 10,000 per day, resulting in an estimated 2.4 million open jobs between 2018 and 2028.
  • More than 68% of respondents to a National Association of Manufacturers survey in fourth-quarter 2018 said attracting and retaining a quality workforce was the highest among “primary current business challenges.”
  • Average annual growth for collaborative robots exceeds 45% from 2018 to 2025, according to The Insight Partners Global Collaborative Robots Market.
  • Among eight collaborative robot customer application in a Universal Robots video, return on investment ranged from 1 to 14 months. Five were 6 months or less.
  • Implementation varies, some with customers, distributors, or system integrators for more complex applications.
  • Human-robot collaboration is 85% more productive than humans or robots alone.
  • All Axis Machinery, which was turning away orders for lack of skilled labor, used four collaborative robots to automate six applications, increase spindle on-time from 8 to 20 hours per day with higher accuracy and quality for a 4-month ROI.
  • Zippertubing wrap-around cable tubing manufacturer achieved zero parts defect and was able to reassign 32% of labor force to other things the robot cannot do.

Other case studies show other benefits including eliminating backlog, increasing throughput, doing half of preliminary buffing so a skilled human can do the rest, eliminating downtime in a critical application, and providing enough help to enable a third shift to operate.

Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, mhoske@cfemedia.com, with information from the Universal Robots July 31 “ROI of Collaborative Robots” webcast.

KEYWORDS: Collaborative robots, manufacturing competitiveness, skills gap

Robotics saves manufacturing jobs rather than eliminate them.

Collaborative robots can be set up and redeployed more quickly than traditional robots

Programming and training for collaborative robots is easier than they are for traditional robots.

CONSIDER THIS

If you have traditional robots, or even if you don’t, what applications could benefit from a little extra help?


Mark T. Hoske
Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.