The use of colaborative robots (cobots) in classroom. (Photo Courtesy of Universal Robots)

Collaborative Robots, or Cobots, Set to Benefit Businesses in Asia  

BY :SIENNA CURNOW

FEBRUARY 12, 2021

Singapore. A report by the World Robotics 2020 Industrial Report shows a record of 2.7 million industrial robots operating in factories globally, with 373,000 units shipped in 2019. 

Amongst industrial robots, collaborative robots (cobots) continue to be the fastest-growing segment of industrial automation, projected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 41.8% globally from 2020 to 2026, in a report by Markets&Markets. 

The Asia Pacific cobot market is projected to become the largest cobot market worldwide, growing at a CAGR of 45.46 percent, with an addressable cumulative market value of $13.17 billion over the next 7 years in terms of cobot hardware.

The growth of collaborative robots is fuelled mainly by the advantages it offers, such as effective employee utilization, higher productivity, and flexibility in redeployment. One of the most significant differences between industrial robots and cobots is the ability of cobots to interact safely with humans in a shared workspace. 

Manufacturing and assembly plants, especially in developed countries, are expected to adopt cobots quickly.

"With the world battling Covid-19, 2020 delivered some ingenious cobot implementations. From personal protective equipment manufacturing to swab testing, collaborative robots are improving the efficiency, safety, and quality of countless processes. The vast majority of cobot implementations are found in electronics and automotive manufacturing and industrial environments, but cobots have the flexibility to be used in a wide variety of sectors from agriculture and medical to pharma," James McKew, Regional Director of Asia-Pacific in cobot manufacturer Universal Robots, said on Friday.

Singapore currently has the highest density of industrial robots with 918 industrial robots used per 10,000 employees. In the city state, top installations of industrial robots are found in the electrical and electronics industry, followed by rubber and plastics, metal and machinery, food, and others in no specific order of installation numbers. 

The increasing move towards automation in the production of electronic devices will continue to push robot installations in Singapore and other Asian economies, including South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

“The experience of 2020 and the uncertainty that we are facing in 2021 are driving companies to review their business strategies and workspace transformation. The pandemic is accelerating interest in cobots as it enables safe distancing in manufacturing and assembly plants to minimize the potential spread of infections, while fully engaging workers productively and efficiently,” he added.

Founded in 2005, Universal Robots seeks to make robot technology accessible to all by developing small, user-friendly, reasonably priced, flexible cobots that are safe to work with. 

Since the first cobot was launched in 2008, the company has experienced considerable growth with the user-friendly cobot now sold worldwide. The company, which is a part of Teradyne Inc., is headquartered in Odense, Denmark.

McKew said he is confident in the capacity for companies to embrace automated technologies, especially as the workforce enters a state of COVID-normal. 

“They can work side-by-side with humans and they can effectively be the distance between humans. They allow manufacturers to come back to effectively full production,” he told Jakarta Globe.

He viewed cobots as being the key to worker efficiency - not a replacement for human workers, but an assistant to aid workers in their tasks. He gave the example of a worker welding. Using a cobot in their work, the assistive technology can keep the welding device at exactly the right distance from the material being worked on, but the operator has control over the tool itself.

“They tend to reduce the cost of poor quality. That’s really critical when the product they’re making is expensive. You know, everyone makes mistakes but when you drop a laptop or when you drop a PC screen, that’s pretty expensive to the manufacturer.”

Though unemployment rates have seen a dramatic rise worldwide since the start of the pandemic, James assured that workers should not fear that cobots could be a replacement for them. Looking to Elon Musks’s venture to have fully automated Tesla factories, he learned that there is a role humans have to play in manufacturing that even the most advanced technology cannot replicate. James said that at the end of the manufacturing line humans will always have a place.

“There is a responsibility on all robotics manufacturers to be clear around where cobots have their place, and where they absolutely do not have their place,” he said.
 

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