Cobots and the labor force
As we continue to move further into this decade, it has become evident that the entire manufacturing sector is dealing with a shortage of skilled labor. Some factors for this shortfall include lack of promotion within high schools and higher education, and the simultaneous retiring of older, skilled workers. The result of these outside forces has produced a gap of qualified personnel that businesses are struggling to fill. As one solution, the cobot brings the potential to satisfy some of those existing labor needs.
In addition, when PBC Linear brings on a new hire, there is a steep learning curve that involves training on both the running of the equipment and the inspection of parts. It’s a lot to learn at once, but by applying the assistance of the cobot to take over some of the basic functions, we can now focus operator training on quality and inspection.
Meet the Cobots
The first impression of our cobots can be described as sleek, shiny and clean. They have six joints for smooth motion, allowing them to twist and turn to fit many different task configurations. Unlike some other comparable machines, our cobots have a set of control buttons on the tool end affector that allows operators to teach a point by simply pressing a button and then moving the cobot to the desired position. All of this can be done without a bulky pendant, allowing for more control during the programming stage.
Engineers can also program more sophisticated functions, like executing an open and close door function, or even write a macro for the cobot. For example, we can program the cobot to put every tenth part in an inspection station. Once a part is in the inspection station, we can then program a pass or fail option where, if a part is marked as fail, the cobot will automatically pause to wait for an operator to make an adjustment.
The value of cobots
For years, PBC Linear had considered installing robots. Unfortunately, pricing, plus safety factors such as barrier fencing and door interlocks, made it far more costly that any labor-saving benefits from industrial robots. More recently, the company owners have had the opportunity to witness a few of these cobots in action. After careful analysis, they realized the automation potential and affordability of these machines. In fact, the price-point of a cobot generally results in very short return on investment.