Letting Robots out of Their Cages: Rise of the Co-Bots

Letting Robots out of Their Cages: Rise of the Co-Bots

Frank Kenna III

By, Frank Kenna III on Wednesday November 02, 2016

Many people think of workplace robots as large machines with swinging arms that must be contained in cages so humans won’t accidentally get hurt. That used to be accurate, but is changing quickly.

The new trend is in collaborative robots, or co-bots, that work alongside of their human counterparts. These are typically smaller machines that can function in the same space as a human. They have built-in sensors that will slow or stop if a human gets in the way.

While some employees are at first fearful, they soon understand that these co-bots are there to work with them, not replace them as shown in this video. Taking over boring and repetitive jobs frees up workers to do higher-level, more creative work and avoid the tasks that they didn’t enjoy doing. For example, in Ford manufacturing plants human workers are freed up to work on customizing cars for consumers who increasingly demand them. Having co-bots work with these employees makes the process faster and more accurate, resulting in better products…and more jobs. In fact, Ford has been adding about ten union jobs a day since 2011.

Training those who used to do the co-bot work is necessary to re-assign them to higher level tasks. But as noted in the video, most employees spend their free time on their smartphones using numerous apps, which is the ideal background for the new jobs they’ll be trained for, such as coding and using apps on workplace machinery - including their co-bot associates.

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