Cobots in the automotive industry - automotive manufacturing
The history of robotics has always been closely tied to the automotive industry. In fact, in 1962 General Motors was the first-ever company to deploy industrial robots. And from the 1970s onwards, the whole automotive industry was characterized by the comprehensive use of large robot systems in their production lines. Up until now. Today, there’s a lot of change going on in automotive; Customers increasingly demand their cars to be customized and thus, batch sizes in production are becoming smaller and smaller. For car manufacturers and all their suppliers, this development means they always have to be prepared for changes in their production layout in order to address the new changes in customer demand. Therefore, next to precision and efficiency, flexibility has also become a key factor in the industry. Flexibility, however, is not considered a core competency of traditional industrial robots that stay bolted down in a cage, dedicated to one task only. This is why many manufacturers are now using collaborative robots in their production.
The factory of the future: Modular, mobile, and flexible:
One of them is Audi: At their ‘Tech Day Smart Factory’ event that took place at the company’s headquarter in Ingolstadt, Germany, Audi presented a new production concept which goes way beyond the traditional assembly line; this new concept embraces a modular and mobile approach of assembly in order to face the high complexity of new product varieties and continuous integration of new processes into production. Besides automatic guided vehicles (AGVs), flexible lightweight robots from Universal Robots also play an important role in their vision of the future’s factory.
Leave ergonomically unfavorable tasks to the cobots:
Although the need for flexibility is steadily gaining importance for manufacturers, it is not the only reason why leading automotive companies opt for cobots. The opportunity of releasing human employees from strenuous and health-damaging activities is also an important factor. The India-based company Bajaj Auto Ltd., third-largest motorcycle manufacturer worldwide, recognized early which way the wind was blowing. In 2010, they were not only aiming for more standardized production processes but for meeting challenges that arose from a large share of tasks still performed manually.. “Two-wheeler assembly lines are highly labor-intensive, spatially challenged and they have physically taxing movements that require high-end precision”, explains Vikas Sawhney, General Manager Engineering (Robotics and Automation) at Bajaj. These were the main reasons behind their decision towards integrating more than 100 cobots into their production. The workers are pleased as well: “Thanks to the high-quality output I achieve with the cobots, I feel very proud of my accomplishments,” says Rameshwari, assembly line operator at Bajaj Auto Ltd. “Operating this advanced technology is very interesting and easy, and all the physically challenging parts are taken care of... The other female employees and I enjoy working with these cobots.”
Nissan Motor Yokohama Plant introduced two “UR10” industrial robots, also called Cobots, produced by Universal Robot.
Nissan Motor Company could be considered a similar case, where staff members had to face the challenges of an aging workforce, associated with a loss of vital skills. One issue causing problems for the Yokohama plant were overrun cycle times, which resulted in the necessity of deploying relief workers, which in turn meant a greater labor and personnel cost for Nissan. Thus, by installing two lines of UR10 robot arms, Nissan solved two problems: the company’s cycle time overrun problem is a thing of the past now while the amount of heavy lifting has been significantly reduced for the staff.
Not only manufacturers but also their suppliers count on cobots. Just as an example, one of the world’s largest OEM parts suppliers, Continental Automotive, has installed six cobots automating the handling of PCB boards in the production of car instrument panels with three additional UR10 projects underway.
Collaborative Robots help the automotive industry - Universal Robots.