50941115 - businessman and robot handshake. vector flat illustrationWhen you think of robots and manufacturing, it’s possible your first thought is of a machine on an automobile line building a car. How much do you know about the history of such mechanical coworkers? Check out these fascinating highlights from the timeline of robots in manufacturing:

  1. The first industrial robot, Unimate, was designed in 1954 and its mechanical arm moved objects from one point to another.
  2. Another early robot (1958) was the Versatran, which could pinch an object to pick it up and move it to a new location, following instructions programmed into what was called a patchboard.
  3. General Motors installed Unimate for the first time in its New Jersey plant in 1961. Its job was unloading a die-casting press.
  4. ASEA IRB, built in 1975, was the first robot to use an Intel chip. Its skills included packing, transportation, welding and polishing, among others.
  5. The first direct drive arm was built in 1981. It was a robot with motors in the joints of the arm. These were faster and more accurate than previous robotic arms.

From the 1980s on, robotic advancements took off, rapidly improving within shorter and shorter timeframes. Every day, robots became more versatile for manufacturers. Unfortunately, though, the history of robots rarely included small or mid-sized businesses. Companies that could afford the hardware were large manufacturers.

But times have changed! We’re seeing more and more small to mid-sized businesses that can afford to add robots to their teams.

Have you heard of cobots?

A new term you may or may not have heard about is a cobot, the shortened name for collaborative robots. These cool, new team members are built to work directly with humans, rubbing elbows with their coworkers, if you will! They have a smaller footprint and cost less. Would your employees like a second set of hands?

According to an article in The Chicago Tribune, cobot sales are expected to grow 34 percent by 2026, globally. It’s still very much an emerging field, but here are a few interesting things we’ve recently learned about how manufacturers are using cobots:

  • With better safety standards and technology, cobots don’t typically require safety fencing or shielding to protect human employees
  • Repetitive tasks that could cause injury to humans are well suited to cobots, something traditional machines did, but at a higher cost
  • They are fairly easy and fast to program
  • They can take over your quality inspections, polishing, machine tending, screwdriving, injection molding, assembly, and pick and place, according to the NIST.
  • They integrate with your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software

Cobots and your ERP

Have you heard of the fourth industrial revolution? The World Economic Forum explained it this way: “…the advent of ‘cyber-physical systems’ involving entirely new capabilities for people and machines… in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even our human bodies.” Cobots are part of this revolution and can fit into your team through integration with your ERP solution.

Thanks to your ERP, you can automate many parts of your business, making life easier, faster, and more accurate. Cobots take this same improvement and enhance it for you, your team, and your business. It’s how we imagine process improvement would look if it drank a five-hour energy drink!

It’s pretty exciting to imagine how much technology will provide businesses of all sizes with advancements that they can afford. We’re excited to be a part of this!