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How cobots will improve our workplaces

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For some industries, working alongside cobots will be business as usual. For others, the prospect may feel strange and alien. It’s fair to say that many people have the perception that the rise of robots may mean fewer jobs and handing over total control to a machine - but this is clearly incorrect - and this is why.

When we talk about robots working alongside humans we’re usually referring to ‘cobots’ (collaborative robots). Cobots are designed to work with us, taking on those repetitive, mundane, and, sometimes, dangerous tasks.

Because they work collaboratively with humans (as opposed to replacing them), workforce productivity and operational efficiencies can be significantly increased - with studies showing that cobots can reduce human idle hours in production by up to 85%.

Cobots have become fairly commonplace across the manufacturing sector in particular, but have also begun to gain popularity in other industries such as agriculture, hospitality and travel. With investment and innovation in the cobot sector continuing to rise, who knows what the future holds? You could be working alongside a cobot sooner than you think!

But won’t they take my job?

We’re all fairly familiar with workers worrying that robots will ‘steal our jobs’. This is a natural reaction and, all through history, new technological innovations and inventions have been received in a similar way: some with justification - others not.

When we talk about cobots, it’s important to remember that they do require human intervention (i.e. with set-ups and programming, etc), to enable them to perform so there’s no danger of them taking over completely. It’s much more likely that you’ll one day work alongside a cobot.

The use of cobots provides the opportunity for companies of all kinds to upskill their workforces and focus time and resources on enabling them to undertake more skilled and value-adding activities.

How can cobots enhance our workplaces?

With more cobots working alongside us being used to perform those repetitive, mundane and sometimes dangerous tasks - we can become more productive and, as a consequence, more valued.

Cobots can also improve health and safety in the workplace. In certain factories, for example, employees can be exposed to specific occupational health and safety hazards - i.e. heavy lifting, standing on their feet all day etc. With cobots taking on these potentially difficult and onerous tasks, they can free-up human workers to focus their efforts elsewhere - engaged in safer and more productive and profitable tasks.

For many smaller businesses, the prospect of introducing robots into their operations may appear totally alien and out of their reach. Cobots, however, cost less to purchase and maintain than their often larger industrial robot counterparts and, with their sophisticated torque-sensing capabilities and lightweight but still rigid construction, are safer to use and easier to deploy. With this in mind, cobots can be game-changers for small and medium-sized businesses that can’t afford or do not require such large (and often complex) automation systems.

Companies such as Ford and Amazon are leading the way with cobots, but advances in technology are now allowing smaller businesses to follow in their footsteps. We’ve seen cobots making cocktails in bars and recommending the best local restaurants to guests within hotels.

Who knows where we will see them next? Cobots could become commonplace in not only more workplaces, but also within our homes too. With the cobot market growing at such a rate, nothing is out of reach.