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Universal Robots declares January "National Cobot Awareness Month"

Jan. 10, 2020
The manufacturer is hoping to prompt manufacturers to discover cobots as the solution to hiring woes and productivity goals

January is an ideal time for National Cobot Awareness Month, says Stu Shepherd, regional sales director of Universal Robots (UR) Americas division.

“It’s been more than 10 years since Universal Robots sold the world’s first commercially viable collaborative robot, but the cobot market is still largely untapped," said Shepherd. "By making January National Cobot Awareness Month, we want to send a signal to manufacturers that cobots are here to solve the monotonous tasks they simply can’t staff. With an average payback period of only six to eight months due to increased productivity, quality, and consistency, they can make their investment back and then some before year end if they start now."

According to UR, cobots can help manufacturers and their employees improve their health and well-being, improve their productivity, broaden their horizons.

While cobots’ built-in safety systems that allow them to work side-by-side with employees was the defining feature of collaborative robots, UR has expanded that definition to include user-friendliness, simplified set-up and flexibility for easy re-deployment. UR cobots allow employees to move from repetitive, low-value tasks to higher-value activities that increase productivity and quality as well as work conditions.

"We believe that being collaborative is just as much about being accessible, lowering the automation barrier by placing robots within reach of manufacturers who never thought they could deploy robots due to cost and complexity," said Shepherd. 

One such manufacturer was Toolcraft, a machine shop in Seattle, WA, that found itself at a crossroad when a large order prompted the company to add a third shift for 24/7 production. “Nobody wants to run on third shift around here," said Steve Wittenberg, director of operations at Toolcraft. "When you put an ad out, you’re not getting very many responses. If we looked at just the robot hardware alone, that appeared to be a more cost-effective solution. But once we started factoring in the savings on not having to erect a safety cage – and the time saved on the ease of use, avoiding a lot of complex programming – Universal Robots ended up being the right solution.”

Troy Ojalehto (left) at Rapid Design Solutions, a Certified Systems Integrator of Universal Robots, works with Brian Laulainen (right), an automation engineer at Seattle-based machine shop Toolcraft, teaching the operation of the UR5e cobot that handles the operation of the company’s CNC machine.

According to UR, its typically see ROI within the first year, with many seeing much faster return in just a few weeks or months.

“When we first started looking into automation, I was surprised to find that we could afford a six-axis robot – and a collaborative one at that,” said Joe McGillivray, CEO of Dynamic Group, an injection molding company in Minnesota that deployed UR cobots. "I assumed those systems cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, which was not the case. The return on investment on our first system was just under two months."

With more than 39,000 cobots sold worldwide and nearly 60% of global market share, UR is can help manufacturers get started with cobots. Free online UR Academy training has helped more than 85,000 users from 130 countries. And the UR+ ecosystem provides over 200 certified products and 400 approved commercial developers that provide guaranteed plug-and-play compatibility with UR cobots for fast and easy implementation.

Cobots are now the fastest-growing segment of industrial automation, with the yearly revenue for cobot arms expected to reach $11.8 billion by 2030, up from $1.9 billion in 2018 according to newly released analysis from ABI Research.