The benefits of collaborative automation are undisputed – more profitability, productivity, flexibility, higher quality, and even more employee satisfaction. Given the current economic landscape, manufacturers need these advantages now more than ever.
Collaborative robots (cobots) are a proven, valuable, and accessible solution for manufacturers of any size – and a competitive weapon for combating the pressures and uncertainties of today’s market.
If you’ve considered deploying cobots but haven’t yet, or are thinking about increasing automation in your factory, the time is now. Here are the top three reasons why:
1. Labor shortages:
The top challenge manufacturers face is the gap between the demand and availability of workers. Unfortunately, the labor shortages will only get worse in the coming years. In fact, research from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute found that over the next 10 years, manufacturers will need to add approximately 4.6 million manufacturing jobs – 2.4 of which may go unfilled.
Complicating the issue further is the aging workforce: workers aged 55-74 accounted for 85% of employment growth in the eurozone between 2012 and 2018, and 44% of U.S. manufacturing workers are at least 45 years old. As these workers continue to near retirement age, filling open positions from a shrinking talent pool will get even more challenging.
Cobots can help ease the burden by filling the labor gaps. Cobots can be programmed, operated and maintained by existing employees, regardless of the team’s previous robotics or automation experience. In fact, the out-of-box experience for an untrained operator to unpack a UR robot, mount it, and program the first simple task is typically less than an hour.
By providing manufacturers with an easy way to automate the dirty, dangerous, dull and repetitive jobs, organizations can shift existing employees to new and more valuable roles, which increases employee satisfaction and builds morale and loyalty. In a 2019 report on the consumer packaged goods industry, McKinsey found that extensive automation can ease recruitment and retention by creating new technical roles with better pay, opportunities, and working conditions.
Operationally, cobots can work around the clock and don’t need to take breaks or vacations – they pick up slack when organizations are short-staffed, and increase productivity for existing workers, especially in high-volume production environments.
Craft and Technik Industries is a great example. The India-based manufacturer successfully leveraged cobots to address both labor shortages and quality issues by reducing the number of product rejects in its automotive parts plant. After installing a UR cobot, which loaded and unloaded a vertical CNC machine and performed automatic inspections, efficiency increased with production volume going up 15-20% with no defects or customer rejections.