Can Labour Shortages be Solved by Cobots?


April 2020

Can labour shortages be solved by Cobots – Collaborative Robots?


What is a Cobot?

Universal Robots introduced the Collaborative Robot (Cobot) into the market as a commercially viable solution to labour shortage problems. These were also made to replace repetitive tasks. Cobots are designed to work safely alongside humans in the manufacturing environment, easily complementing the workforce and eliminating the challenge of the ever-increasing labour shortage that industries are experiencing.


So how do Cobots solve the labour shortage problem?

Robotics can plug the gap by filling the lower-skilled positions and freeing up employees to do more value added jobs, they then, in turn, become more productive all-round creating a harmonious and happier workplace.

There is a skills shortage but also the more serious matter that the numbers of potential staff for the roles are just too low now. Companies that adopt a Cobot solution quickly can often have an ROI (Return on Investment) within months and swiftly consider taking on more work, be more efficient, upskill their existing workforce all with very little floor space needed for the Collaborative Robot. This is a very simple way of how to solve the labour shortage problem.


How the challenge was solved.

The challenge that manufacturing is and has been facing with industrial robotic solutions is they can be big and expensive to implement. Cobots changed the playing field by being fast to task, easy to deploy (out of the box and programming in under 30 mins). Safe to work with and be completing production processes night and day with little or no experience of programming.


How much do Cobots cost?

The low cost affordability of this next generation of robotics can be put on the payroll as such, with options of different levels and variations of finance making it even simpler to justify. The fact it becomes cost neutral in a short time and is not the ongoing expense of a human employee should make implementing collaborative robots into manufacturing a simple decision.


cobot labour shortage


Are Cobots safe?

There are safety systems built into all six axis of the robot arm with constant readings being computed. Should the Cobot come into contact with any external force it immediately stops, this is the collaborative aspect that is so appealing for industry.

Current safety certifications are: EN ISO 13849-1, PLd Category 3, and EN ISO10218-1




How Accurate are Cobots?

In a lean manufacturing cell, carrying out CNC machine loading, mid production line assembly or end of line boxing and palletising, for example the Universal Robot arm e-Series is extremely accurate and repeatable to 0.03mm. This can reduce inaccuracies and mistakes that the human element undoubtedly does. Quality control can be significantly increased and is also then measurable.


How long does a Cobot last?

All joints have been tested and proven working 24/7 at full speed without failure for 36,500 hours (roughly 4.1 years). With just one single cobot able to work all shifts regardless of breaks and holidays. This becomes very attractive to companies looking to get a competitive edge on their competition. Now that trying to fill open positions with human workers is becoming so difficult then an automation response is required. Cobots step up to solve this problem of labour shortage with ease and style.


Do I need to have programming experience?

For those with limited or no experience of collaborative robot programming, the thought of programming one may seem daunting. The simplistic programming of universal robots makes it possible for anyone including machine operators to program tasks such as repetitive picking and placing using the clear and well defined teach pendant interface. Whilst mistakes may happen during programming, the safety aspect is still there, therefore helping prevent damage and injury to inexperienced users.



What are the payloads for a Cobot?

In the current family of cobots that world leaders Universal Robots manufacture, there are four variants ranging from the smallest payload of 3kg (UR3e with 500mm reach) then up to the next at 5kg payload (UR5e with 850mm reach), 10kg payload (UR10e with 1300mm reach). Finally 16kg payload (UR16e with 900mm reach). SP-Elements are sole distributors in Scotland and can supply all of these.


What are the applications and end effectors?

Universal Robots use what is called a UR+ scheme that certificates the range of world class leading third party end-effectors. To be UR+ certificated the End of Arm Tooling (EOAT) must be Plug and Play. The applications with over 450 end-effectors allow cobots to take on almost any task with more coming to market weekly. Highly versatile and compact with easy integration. SP Elements can assist with all these and answer all questions relating to Collaborative Robots.




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