How Robots, Cobots, and Mindbots Improve Manufacturing
Outsourcing manufacturing tasks to robots
Robots have long been used in manufacturing and industry to alleviate labor-intensive, repetitive, difficult, unsafe or other tasks generally unsuitable for humans to perform. Thanks to the widespread adoption of robotic devices, production efficiency has largely increased, fulfillment times have shortened, workplace accidents have gone down, and worker satisfaction has improved. Despite fears of robots and AI replacing human workers, the technology has been embraced by many modern manufacturing facilities due to its sizeable advantages. Many workers have been retrained to work alongside robots and are welcoming no longer having to perform physically and mentally taxing tasks.
From robots to cobots and mindbots
Going further in their utility than simpler robotic devices and assistants, cobots are collaborative robots, which are deployed in the service of humans. A newer term coined by European researchers in an EU-funded project, the so-called mindbot signifies a type of collaborative robot, which aims to improve worker motivation and reduce mental issues within production environments. With the hope of reversing the wide-spread fear associated with the advent of robots, cobots and mindbots are designed to assist their human counterparts in their daily lives, improving their routines and attitudes towards work.
Benefits of adopting cobots and mindbots in industry
Not surprisingly, manufacturing environments are taxing to humans, and have long been associated with high rates of depression, burnout and staff turnover. Cobots and mindbots seek to change this paradigm and transform industry 4.0 for good.
The advantages of introducing collaborative robots and mindbots to manufacturing environments are plentiful, with the following deserving an honorable mention:
- Decreasing anxiety associated with monotonous tasks
- Reducing workplace accidents
- Reducing production errors and material waste
- Increasing worker motivation, productivity, and speed
- Improving production quality and uniformity
- Preventing fatigue and burnout, improving mental health
- Reducing worker absenteeism due to health problems
Cobots transforming production environments
In the industry 4.0 age, manufacturing environments are transforming into innovative workplaces that are not only high-tech but also extremely efficient. They are designed to improve the comfort, safety and satisfaction of humans, including assembly line workers, machine operators, line managers, shift supervisors, and maintenance staff. Cobots are being used in a variety of tasks that are best outsourced to machines, including but not limited to welding, materials handling, picking, packing, palletizing, assembling, transporting, and QA.
Industry applications of cobots
The real-world applications of collaborative robots and mindbots are varied and far-reaching. Manufacturing and logistics are two of the most common sectors that actively deploy cobots, though they can also be successfully applied to many other industries, such as: healthcare, agriculture, textiles, and entertainment.
For cobots or mindbots to succeed in a specific plant or factory, there are several minimal requirements to consider:
- Organizational readiness: How digitally transformed and ready to adopt new technology is your plant or factory?
- Budget: How financially ready is your organization to not only acquire and implement cobots but also develop, run and maintain them?
- Training: Are your employees trained on how to collaborate with cobots?
- Existing environment: How easily can cobots be incorporated into your existing production setup? What needs to change to ensure they are minimally disruptive and immediately helpful?
- Software and applications: Do the desired cobot models come with the right set of apps and software that can be integrated into existing systems? If not, do such apps need to be custom developed?
- Maintenance: Does your organization have the means to maintain cobots on its own or does it need to rely on external contractors to do so? Are there contingencies for any downtime caused by mechanical or software failures?
Prospects for cobots and mindbots
It is expected that an ongoing EU-funded study on mindbots will prove that adopting these innovative collaborative robots in production settings has a highly positive impact on human workers. This implies that manufacturing companies should develop a plan for introducing and implementing this technology in the near term. These highly sophisticated, machine-operated ‘workers’ require dedicated software and applications not just to run but also to provide meaningful insights to their human counterparts, production managers and heads of factories. These apps should facilitate the smooth operation of the robotic workers and simplify their collaboration with humans via user-friendly interfaces that incorporate universal UX principles and design thinking.
Looking for a partner to help you develop your robotic or industry 4.0 app? Look no further than the Verhaert Digital team – let’s schedule a call to discuss your needs.