Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the cobot (collaborative robot) market was expected to grow more than $10 billion and make up 34% of all robot sales by 2025.
Currently, cobots only account for a small percentage of the current market, so this is a huge anticipated shift.
The cobot industry has seen a lot of innovation, not just from system manufacturers but also from accessory software and end-of-arm tooling suppliers, which has widened their appeal and potential. They are becoming more and more popular and accepted and this is set to only increase in the future. So, what is it about cobots that is causing this increase in demand, and what does the future look like for the industry?
The benefits of cobots
Cobots are designed to work alongside humans, as opposed to replacing them, taking on repetitive, dangerous and/or error-prone tasks. Because they work collaboratively with humans, workforce can be greatly increased with studies showing that cobots can reduce human idle hours in production by up to 85%.
Not only this, but cobots 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. Their inherent safety, flexibility, easy integration and collaborative nature deliver significant productivity improvements and a faster return on investment than one might at first expect.
What does the future of cobots look like?
Further automation across all areas of manufacturing is inevitable, however with cobots on the rise, there’s no danger in them taking over completely as they require human intervention (i.e. with set-ups and programming etc.), to carry out their jobs. Of course, there’s no doubt that many jobs that humans do today may be taken over by cobots in the future, but for a sector sufferingskills shortages like manufacturing, this may be a good thing. The use of cobots provides an opportunity for companies to upskill their workforces and, in doing so, alleviate the pressure of these skill shortages caused, in part, by the retirement of the baby boomers.
Also, with more cobots on the factory floor taking over those repetitive tasks, humans are in turn liberated from the things that they most dislike doing anyway, freeing them up to be more productive focusing their efforts on more value-adding activities.
Perhaps the future will also bring more cobots outside of the factory setting. Companies such as Ford and Amazon have shown the way with cobots, but advances in technology are now allowing smaller businesses to follow in their footsteps. We’ve seen innovative cobot applications in the hospitality, agricultural and travel industries – who knows where we will see them next? Cobots could become commonplace within our homes, office workspaces or retail stores – with the market growing at such a rate, nothing is out of reach.