A budding technology was met with skepticism only a decade ago. Since then, this technology has seen an exponential boost in demand.
The use of robotics in manufacturing and industrial settings continues to expand and evolve at a swift pace. Industrial robots have become vital to digital and networked production in Industry 4.0. Today, Collaborative Robots or Cobots signify the fastest emerging sector of industrial robotics.
From manufacturing to retail to mining, cobots work alongside human workers in a semi-autonomous environment to increase efficiency and eliminate low-end activities, leaving humans to focus on creating business value, thereby bringing best of both the worlds. With COVID-19 disrupting the world, the need for cobots has increased manifold. Industries are affected by workforce unavailability, revealing an immediate requirement for increased automation.
As industries cope with absent labor and social-distancing norms, every business is exploring possibilities to automate their processes. Enterprises are taking all possible actions to enable a smooth transition through this tough phase while ensuring safety of their employees, clients and partners. It is now imperative for them to reduce human interaction in viable situations. For instance, cobots can enable a human-less process in the last step of order processing at retail centers to avoid contact, or can help in facilities management to avoid employee risk at airports across the globe.
How cobots empower business
Cobots work alongside humans, bringing in enhanced levels of safety, efficiency, productivity and flexibility to industry operations and many other advantages:
- Quick Deployment: A working cobot can be quickly deployed and trained within a timeline of 8 to 12 weeks depending on the use case
- Re-trainable & Flexible: The cobots are re-trainable across multiple meaningful tasks and activities to offer flexibility for a number of applications and use cases across industries
- Cost Saver: Implementing cobots within the organization can bring a significant reduction in labor cost by up to 80% with quality improvement at assembled part level
- Safety: The cobots are trained to operate in a safe way especially within factories and plants, or with handling fragile inventory etc. leading to enhanced efficiency
- Higher Productivity: Cobots enable up to 15% reduction in production idle time leading to optimal productivity and reduction in skilled labor dependency
- High ROI: A cobot helps improve productivity enabling ROI in 12-30 months depending on specific applications that it is trained to address
- Speed of Adoption: The speed of adoption by the industries is higher with predefined use cases and training of cobots, which makes them easy to use
- Continuous Improvement: Cobots using software orchestration can be enabled with self-learning capabilities using technologies like robot vision, deep learning and reinforcement learning
Cobots can be leveraged in a variety of applications such as pick and place of inventory in a warehouse, handling fragile samples in a laboratory, small items for packaging in retail, polishing, fastening and finishing in manufacturing, loading / unloading of goods or even quality control checks across industries.
Embarking on the robotics journey
Wipro’s Robotics practice works with leading robot / cobot manufacturers to build a robust software orchestration layer through which robots / cobots and their tasks can be controlled. These robots / cobots are well trained and re-trained by our experts for industrial / business purposes. We run multiple go-to- market and co-development initiatives with WIN Automation - the industrial automation business of Wipro Infrastructure Engineering to develop specific solutions leveraging key partnerships.
A few of the use cases for Wipro cobots and robots, which were showcased at global events are:
1. Intelligent machine-tending cobot for manufacturing
This is a classic use case of machine tending showcased at IMTEX 2019 (One of the largest international tradeshows for metal cutting). The use case demonstrated the value addition in the process of mass manufacturing through introduction of Smart Robotics and Intelligent Vision. Wipro devised a demo showcase of identifying a particular part from the tray, picking up using machine vision with both position and orientation details, loading to the indexing chuck in Computer Numerically Controlled turning center for 3 point turning. It leveraged Wipro’s AI and vision based object identification trained with Deep Learning models, Universal Mission control software (State machine) to govern and control actions of the overall system leading to Cobot implementation with Robot Operating System integration.
- Improves productivity by aiding accuracy and cycle time
- Eliminates wrong loading of parts to processes due to repetitive nature of job
- Replicability and replaceability for different parts and processes
2. Autonomous cobot for retail
This use case demonstrated the ability of the cobot to pick and place at Winnovate (A flagship event of Wipro) 2019 at Berlin. Once the trained cobot gets the order, it scans the inventory to pick the right box from shelf and place it on the mobile robot. This mobile robot moves to the delivery point where the customer picks the required items post authentication. Once the customer receives the items, it goes back to its origin for collecting new order.
- Reduced dependency on labor
- Reduced order processing time, leading to reduction in wait time for customer
3. Mobile shopper robot
This use case demonstrates the shopping experience enabled by a mobile robot, which was showcased at NRF 2019 (A flagship industry event of the National Retail Federation). This robot is highly successful for order picking in warehouses, which has huge dependency on skilled labor and long order processing times due to human intervention. Wipro devised a shopper robot that detects, picks and places items from shelf. It has a software-based orchestration for multi-robot synchronization and autonomous navigation with inbuilt obstacle avoidance features.
- Very low human work force requirement
- Suitable for Dark stores/ Remote operations
The future of work is collaborative
According to the Loup Frontier Tech Index, the cobot market is expected to grow from $0.7B in 2017 to $9.1B in 2025, representing a 56% CAGR. With lower initial costs, proven ability to provide great ROI and higher productivity, the demand for cobots is growing.
Human-robot collaboration will be a promising way to achieve growth in productivity while decreasing costs in future, as it combines the skill of a human to evaluate, respond, and strategize with the repeatability and strength of a robot. Cobots have the potential to radically change the future of businesses, especially the manufacturing sector.
We aim to focus on enabling cobots in:
- Manufacturing and assembly lines for streamlined and efficient operations
- Secondary packaging and unboxing in warehousing, thereby making the process quicker and accurate
- Goods sorting for identifying and arranging the goods in a prioritized order for a systematic workflow
- Healthcare assistance in patient care
If you are dealing with disruption in these or similar areas or are preemptively planning to identify the relevant areas, or simply want to adopt a more automated, intelligent and collaborative robotics culture, connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org