Cobots are Providing an Edge for Hoosier Workers

Cobots are Providing an Edge for Hoosier Workers

If a company could provide its employees with a third arm, what kinds of things would they be able to achieve? That might sound like a hypothetical question from a science fiction plot, but lots of businesses have been looking into the possibility lately to combat labor shortages. Numerous operations throughout the state have been piloting technology designed to provide workers with an extra edge. These cobots, as they’re called, have been helping workers get more things done.


What is a Cobot?

Cobots are like robotic assistants that aid employees with workplace tasks, particularly if they’re repetitive or physically demanding. The name comes from the phrase “collaborative robots.” These devices don’t replace people, but instead work alongside them. They can be trained for just about any work environment.

Workers train the cobots by physically moving them through the steps that need to be completed during occupational tasks. Then as the cobot works, it finds ways to adjust and become more efficient. It learns as it goes, so to speak.

Recent advances in sensor technology have improved interactions with humans. This reduces accidents and enables relativity easy reprogramming.

Cobots are becoming a major trend in the manufacturing sector and are also seeing increased use in areas like construction, logistics, and pharmaceuticals. Because they work well in tight quarters with people, cobots are becoming a sought-after alternative to other forms of robots.


Hoosier Firms are Gaining Experience

CTIM Cobot – Image from Vincennes

Companies in Indiana have been connecting with outside organizations for training and education on ways that cobots can be incorporated into their workplaces. Vincennes University (VU) has been conducting a large amount of activity in this regard. The school has been supporting manufacturers with training and has been building a new talent pipeline in advanced automation and cobots.

In the latter months of last year, VU and its partner Telamon installed a new collaborative robotics lab at the Center for Technology, Innovation, and Manufacturing (CTIM) on the VU Jasper Campus. Telamon is a Carmel, IN-based firm that specializes in telecommunications, industrial assembly, and supply chain financing.

The new CTIM cobotics lab will allow VU Jasper to provide employers with demonstrations, workshops, and access to emerging cobot technologies, applications, and models. All of this was funded in part by an $8 million “Developing a Workforce Ecosystem for Industry 4.0 in Indiana” grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

“Cobots represent the next generation of automation within the manufacturing sector and will become part of the solution to overcoming current productivity and workforce challenges. The VUJ Cobot Learning Lab is a resource for all community partners to explore and test collaborative robots,” said CTIM Director Jacob Berg.

The university also two other locations that will be teaching lessons about cobots and automation to Hoosier firms. Cobots are currently in the Gene Haas Training and Education Center in Lebanon, and will be part of the state-of-the-art Center for Applied Robotics and Automation (CARA) that is under construction on the Vincennes Campus.

Another site that will educating Indiana companies about cobots is the Emerging Manufacturing Collaboration Center (EMC2) that is in development at the 16 Tech Innovation District in the Riverside area of Indianapolis.

Companies can come to EMC2 to learn a range of things, from general advanced manufacturing topics to highly specific training. It’s all about exposing companies to new developments that could enhance their way of operating.

Manufacturers and startups will have the opportunity to increase their awareness of emerging technologies like additive manufacturing/3-D printing, automation, cobots, and skills that employees will need in the era of smart manufacturing. They’ll also get to use state-of-the-art equipment to train employees, conduct third-party pilot manufacturing, try out products, and learn about software applications.


Coming to a Workplace Near You

Given that so many employers have been looking for workers, and many employees have been needing extra help on the job, cobots could be a viable option to make things a little easier. This isn’t really a case of robots coming to steal people’s jobs. The devices are designed to assist people with their tasks, and perhaps provide some relief from repetition or strain. As more companies get familiar with how cobots work, they could be making their way to a workplace near you before too long.


Six Major Application Trends in Cobots (Collaborative Robots)

  1. Automated Picking
  2. Assembly Line
  3. Machine Tending
  4. Packing, Packaging, and Palletizing
  5. Materials Handling
  6. Automated Replenishment

Source: Waypoint Robotics

Category Features, Logistics