Robotic solutions are more affordable than they have ever been, especially as the newest generation of highly flexible yet cost-efficient cobots proliferate in the market. These lower-cost solutions, coupled with expanding budgets for robots at manufacturers, have resulted in more robots in more industries performing a wider range of tasks, even at SME operations. To some extent, technology has advanced at such a rapid pace that the largest challenge the manufacturing industry faces is understanding how to translate these technological breakthroughs into practical applications.
Cobots at SMEs
Cobots are seeing greater deployment at SMEs as costs have continued to decline. Simplified programming, intuitive interfaces, and a high degree of modular mobility have made cobots more accessible to SMEs that typically lack large budgets and specialized skills. This new generation of adaptable cobots is enabling SMEs to experiment with robotic solutions and achieve higher degrees of automation through gradual, incremental improvements. To some extent, technology has advanced at such a rapid pace that the largest challenge the manufacturing industry faces is understanding how to translate these technological breakthroughs into practical applications.
Cobots at Larger Manufacturers
Large manufacturers are adopting cobots in an effort to achieve greater levels of flexibility in their operations. While large manufacturers also benefit from more affordable and easier to program cobots, their main goal with cobots is to enable greater flexibility on production lines through modular deployments. Without the need for safety guarding, these cobots also free up space on the line while alleviating the burden on human labor.
In the past packaging and processing operations have focused on the ability of robots to work alongside humans as a key selling point, but this mindset has shifted in recent years. While the collaborative element of cobots is still valuable, many manufacturers are finding the most important benefits of cobots lie in their flexibility and modularity.
The new generation of cobots can be reprogrammed easily and quickly, and their smaller size makes them well suited for frequent adjustment and redeployment on manufacturing lines. As one industry expert states in PMMI's 2022 Robots and Cobots report: “The most direct benefit of cobots is not in their ability to collaborate with humans — rather, it is in their relative ease of use, improved interface, and the ability of end-users to redeploy them for different tasks.”