While there is a global movement built around creating smart, connected factories of the future, a new trend towards putting the human touch back in production is transforming the manufacturing process.
Picture this: Robots brandish the tools and perform all tasks while human workers oversee operations. Supported by smart technology, humans and machines collaborate simultaneously on the factory floor. Believe it or not, this kind of futuristic scenario is already taking place in factories across the world.
This phenomenon referred to as “Industry 5.0” or collaborative industries reflect a growing view amongst manufacturers of the need to respond to increasing demand amongst customers for a higher degree of individualization. In fact, 85 percent of manufacturers consider the “connected workforce” - that is robots and humans working together being routine in manufacturing by 2020. Moreover, an overwhelming majority of manufacturers now describe it as an essential element in their business strategy.
THE BENEFITS OF A COLLABORATIVE MAN AND MACHINE WORKFORCE
1. Ability to customize, adding the creative human element:
While robots are excellent at manufacturing standard products in standardized processes in a high production volume, customizing or personalizing each and every product can be a challenge where robots will require guidance. Hence, maintaining the human touch within production processes is critical.
In production processes, automation can be used to its fullest potential only when there is a spark of human creativity influencing the processes. On its own, an automated production with traditional industrial robots will do only what it is being told - often only after long and strenuous programming efforts. Collaborative robots or “cobots”, however, work in sync with human employees. In this situation, man and machine complement each other, as the human can be responsible for customization, while the robot processes the product or prepares it for human attention. In this way, the employee is empowered and uses the cobot as a multi-functional tool, as with a screwdriver, packaging device, or palletizer.