Cobots, or collaborative robots, can be a big investment for a machine shop to make. So, here are some tips for things to consider before you take that leap.
First, consider what applications you would like a cobot to take over? What tasks are the dull, dirty, dangerous, or physically challenging? Then think about the requirements you’ll need – payload, reach, accuracy, and so on. Will a cobot be a better fit than an industrial robot? Which jobs can this potentially fill where you have a gap in staff? Which employees can you move to more cerebral tasks?
Also take a look at the international standard ISO 10218 parts 1 and 2 which talks about the four types of collaborative robot features: safety-monitored stop, hand guiding, speed and separation monitoring, and power and force limiting. Do your applications fit?
Second, it takes considerable skill to integrate a cobot. You need to ask yourself, does anyone here have the skills and time required to do this, or should we utilize a systems integrator to handle everything? A systems integrator can walk through your machine shop and confidently tell you what will work and won’t work. They have done all kinds of set ups for a variety of customers previously, and they can provide you with something that’s going to cost you less even though you’re outsourcing the system integration. The reason is that you don’t have to start from scratch and reinvent the wheel.
Have Answers Ready.
Third is to have open communication with everyone from the executives who you need buy-in from to the operators who could be working next to a cobot daily if you implement. Do your homework and have answers to these questions before starting any discussions:
- What are the benefits of this type of automation?
- How much of an investment is this, and what is the predicted ROI?
- Will machine shop workers be doing anything differently if we get a cobot? Can they be considered for other more cerebral roles on the machine shop floor? What does that look like?
- What opportunities for learning and training are available? Who can conduct this? (Often the systems integrators will offer to train your staff as part of your package purchase.)
- Once the cobot is integrated, what support do we have access to?
- How can this help with staff shortages, if applicable?
- What are the company’s future plans for automation?
If you’d like to learn more, please reach out to us at cobotics@fusionOEM.com.