Robots have traditionally been implemented in manufacturing end-of-line, and data shows that many manufacturers have difficulty envisioning robotics applications outside of secondary packaging and palletizing tasks.
But technology has advanced to a point, according to “Automation Timeline: The Drive Toward 4.0 Connectivity in Packaging and Processing,” whereby “robots, including cobots, are more than capable of branching out beyond end-of-line applications.” This provides an opportunity for OEMs and suppliers to provide guidance on robot and cobot applications to expand operations.
One of the areas of fastest growth for robot usage in manufacturing is cobots. Cobot applications were growing significantly before the pandemic with both revenue and units installed up in 2019, despite the manufacturing downturn. Because they are designed to work alongside employees, cobots alleviate some of the requirements placed on humans and make production more efficient. Cobot versatility allows them to be utilized in a variety of applications with minimal reprogramming, which makes them an important alternative when considering “new operational realities” such as labor fluctuations and production schedule shifts due to COVID-19.
“We will be deploying robotics for pick-and-place functions in the future, and a few one-off applications to replace manual labor,” said one Process Engineer at a leading pharma/supplements company.
In the meat packing industry, which has been hard-hit by COVID-19, many large companies have been pushed to reevaluate their automation options. While several of the largest players were already developing robotic processing systems over the last five years, many companies have now announced accelerated plans for robotic processing systems to address urgent labor needs.
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Source: PMMI Business Intelligence, “Automation Timeline: The Drive Toward 4.0 Connectivity in Packaging and Processing”
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