When you think of robots — or bots, for short — the first thing that comes to mind may be the kind of automation system used in manufacturing plants. These involve robotic arms or limbs that carry out simple, yet unsupervised, actions, such as placing an item on a conveyor belt or assembling components.
If you try to picture advanced robots instead, you might imagine an android or robot from a futuristic setting that can do various tasks. Think of popular digital assistants like Siri or Alexa, except with a full physical body at their command.
While both of these scenarios are possible — and in use — in today’s market, they’re not the only type of bot a business might deploy. Another form of robotic system is the “cobot,” which is short for collaborative robot. These can be used for automated tasks, but the idea is that they work alongside humans.
Cobots are arguably even more innovative and high-tech than your average robot. They will play a huge role in years to come, thanks to the industrial- and consumer-driven market for the Internet of Things. They’re so promising, in fact, that many of this blog’s readers are probably considering deploying them in one way or another.
Before doing so, however, there are some questions you should ask yourself.
1. Do I know the difference between cobots and industrial robots?
Your average industrial robot is usually in place to improve efficiency and processes. Most of the time, they can be used to fully automate a system or element of manufacturing, shipping, or some other process.
Cobots work directly in cooperation with humans. The goal of implementing cobots is not to render human workers obsolete, but rather to help humans with daily tasks. For example, some cobots are being put to work in hospitals, where they help surgeons conduct operations.
It’s important to know the difference between an industrial robot and a cobot. Each type of robot is a tool, and tools are only effective with proper use. For instance, if a cobot will only slow down your human workforce without benefiting them in any way, you should probably avoid using it.
2. How will cobots assist employees (and each other)?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that robots, cobots, and automation systems in general are always better than existing processes. After all, they will help you streamline your process — especially tedious tasks — which improves performance, right?
Except that’s not always the case, especially with cobots that will be working alongside other robots, systems, and/or humans. There are many more factors that contribute to overall success.
The first thing you should do before deploying cobots is consider how these tools will contribute to your business. How will your processes and tools improve? How much more — or less — work will your workers be able to complete? What will you be able to achieve that you couldn’t do before?
In many cases, modern automation and robotics can significantly improve efficiency. But that’s no guarantee, so don’t just rely on easy assumptions — do your homework.