To use robots effectively, get started, get coaching
As robots become a larger part of the manufacturing landscape, programming the robots may be an early barrier to their use on the plant floor. Quebec City, Canada-based Robotiq has introduced a series of downloadable programming templates to help get the process started. Robotiq integration coach David Gariépy talks with Plant Engineering about how manufacturers are dipping their toes into the robotics market, some of the challenges of working with collaborative robots, known as cobots, and some of the challenges they face:
Plant Engineering (PE): When manufacturers are first exploring using robots on their assembly line, do they know what they need, or, as your job title implies, is there some coaching to be done?
Gariépy: Most of the time, they want to validate the possibility to automate a given task and be guided on how to do it. The coaching is really useful, as we can do a proof of concept, give them the program code we used and explain the programming logic so they have something to start with.
The coaching service is useful at the beginning of the process but also during the implementation. We help them remove the blockers they might encounter and speed up their integration process. It allows them to grow their know-how skills faster and go forward with a new project sooner.
PE: What’s the one challenge manufacturers face when integrating robots into their manufacturing process? How can they meet those challenges?
Gariépy: The main challenge is definitely the know-how skills; 82% of manufacturers believe the skills gap will impact their ability to meet the customer’s demand. It is 10 times more difficult to find robotics skills than machinist skills in the U.S. workforce.
How can they meet those challenges? By getting started with cobots as soon as possible. At first, they should keep it small and simple. Highly predictable and repeatable tasks are the best ones to start with. They can then build their know-how skills and start scaling up to more robots with more complex applications.
So start small and build on your success. Another interesting fact is that once you’ve started, the subsequent cobots implementation usually takes 30 to 50% less time than the first one. The free coaching service and programs templates that Robotiq is offering allow manufacturers to simplify and speed up the implementation of cobots in their production line.
PE: As the concept of cobots continues to evolve, how do we keep humans engaged and important in the manufacturing process?
Gariépy: The biggest misconception people have about cobots, and robots in general, is that it has to be done at the cost of jobs. In reality, the opposite usually happens. It allows manufacturers to become more productive, so they get more orders. The employees then can be moved to more rewarding jobs and eventually, new jobs are created. Our goal at Robotiq is to free human hands from repetitive tasks in order to give them the freedom to think, to create, and to innovate.