The COVID-19 pandemic affected almost everybody across the planet. The consequent global lockdown hit businesses severely and led many to look for new, innovative ways to maintain business continuity. This, in turn, led to the transformation of business models and forced industry leaders to reevaluate how they do business. Keeping business continuity as a priority, collaborative robots, or cobots for short, and automation have become buzzwords and have panned out as the undisputed champions in support of the changing business processes in manufacturing, supply chain, food supplies, remote work and e-commerce.
Shortage of Labour Due to COVID-19 Restrictions
There is no question that many companies faced manpower shortages since the pandemic due to control measures. The biggest fight for any enterprise was to maintain operations and revenue while managing expenditure and facing labour uncertainty during this difficult period. Krishi Group is such a company.
Irrigation equipment is critical for Indian agriculture and demand is high, and Krishi Group is one of India’s leading agricultural equipment manufacturers. During COVID-19, the firm was hard hit by staff absences, with a 40% to 50% reduction in workforce. The facilities struggled to keep up with demand until a cobot was introduced. The robotic arm now works with a human worker on quality control tasks that previously require two workers to complete.
Lowers the risk of transmission of COVID 19
Around us, we are seeing a rapid introduction of robots into our daily lives to cope with social distancing measures. Some fast food chains and hospitals are using robots to take temperature and distribute sanitisers. Certain food services, groceries, and restaurants have shifted to robots for food preparation and take away deliveries. Even in the warehouses of e-commerce giants, robots are being tested to improve efficacy in sorting, shipping, and packing. Companies are increasingly looking into introducing automation at the workplace to comply with pandemic measure, reduce the risk of infection and safeguard the health of staff.
In Dallas, Texas, when All Axis Machining, a 20-person contract machine shop and fabricator was hit by reduced production capacity due to social distancing requirements, they knew they had to make some rapid decisions. Without making changes to the production process, they were faced with the prospect of turning down future orders. The company turned to automate some of their processes by cobots for essential machine tending tasks. Collaborative robots, as the name implies, can be placed next to human workers to collaborate and assist with repetitive tasks. This has enabled them to increase production, despite the social distancing measures and labour uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
Rise in the Use of Cobots
According to a study by IFR (International Federation of Robots), there is a 15% increase in sales of robots in the year 2015 and it further estimates that by the year 2021 the 2.5 million industrial robots will be at work with an annual growth of 15% per year. In 2020 and beyond, cobots can be seen fulfilling a unique role of enabling a safer work environment as factories continue to operate. The benefits and contribution to the survival of companies observed during the pandemic will likely further accelerate the adoption of cobots and automation at workplaces. The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a major shakeup, no doubt about it. This is a time when the robustness of our supply chain is seriously challenged. Thousands of successful, innovative manufacturers are addressing the challenges of an uncertain world. Here are some of the proven approaches they’re taking, and that you can replicate.
AUTOMATION IS THE SINGLE MOST POWERFUL STRATEGY: For manufacturers, automation has emerged as the single most powerful strategy for succeeding in a VUCA world, whether that’s caused by a pandemic or almost any other business challenge.
SUPPLY CHAINS NEED A PLAN B: The global pandemic hit supply chains quickly and acutely, illustrating the vulnerability that had been building for years. Manufacturers now know that they need a Plan B in case remote production or supply is compromised and market demands shift. At the same time, many manufacturers have realized the advantage of being closer to their customers, even if that keeps them in regions with higher labor costs.
LABOR SHORTAGES LEAD TO OPPORTUNITY: Previous off-shoring trends were fueled by lower-cost labor. Advances in collaborative automation, however, have drastically increased productivity and reduced costs across a number of manufacturing processes. Many of these can now be easily reshored and deployed domestically. While labor rates in traditionally low-cost countries have seen annual increases in the double digits, affordable collaborative robots make automation even more accessible, independent of company size.
ADAPT TO MEET CHANGING DEMANDS: Collaborative automation is designed to be easily learned and quickly deployed so that it can be moved, changed, and redeployed by in-house employees with minimal hand-holding.
MEET NEW SAFETY REQUIREMENTS: The importance of physical distancing during COVID-19 has made infection control a new priority, and for many manufacturers this new reality will continue indefinitely. Many successful manufacturers were able to reopen their doors more quickly with collaborative robots. By inserting UR cobots within standard production lines, these companies were able to offset face-to-face risks and create safe distance between workers while keeping output levels high.
LEARN MORE ABOUT NAVIGATING THE COVID LANDSCAPE: In many ways, we’re navigating uncharted territory, but a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re finally seeing a promising future. Thanks to collaborative automation, manufacturers are discovering innovative new opportunities to address a VUCA world and emerge smarter, sharper, and better prepared for any situation. Get more information on how manufacturers like you around the world are using collaborative automation to adapt and succeed.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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