Smart Machines & Factories
The future is collaborative
Published:  25 October, 2016

Aaron Blutstein spoke to Per Kloster Poulsen, regional sales director at Universal Robots‬, about the use of cobot technology in the UK in a smart manufacturing era.

SMF: What are the advantages of cobots and how do they fit into a smart manufacturing strategy?

PKP: We see the cobots more as a tool for the employees to get the repetitive work done. They are easy to install (We see more and more plug n’ play solutions)

The collaborative robots from Universal Robots are also easy to deploy and easy to program. On top of this they have the safety built-in, so the robots stops, when you touch it. All these benefits automatically generate the lowest ROI´s in the industry.

One of the main challenges in future manufacturing is a higher grade of flexibility (mass customisation) The cobots with the above benefits makes it possible to build-in flexibility in your production already today.

The price point, Low ROI and the high grade of flexibility also makes it possible for SME´s to implement robots/automation in their production.

SMF: What are the main issues to embracing cobots in the UK?

PKP: Mainly we see two issues in the UK. Health & Safety and people afraid of losing their jobs. As we are introducing a new paradigm in Automation, the obstacles are often based on traditional thinking.

Job Security: We see our robots as a tool. Tools do not work alone. There are a lot of benefits in the idea of workers working in close collaboration with the cobots from Universal Robots. Humans do what humans are good at and leaves the repetitive work to the robots.

We have experienced more complex Health & Safety issues in the UK compared to other countries in Europe. As an example there are more collaborative robots installed in Denmark than in UK on a yearly basis…It seems like some manufacturers in Britain are more focused on what is not possible than what is possible with this new technology. We often discuss how to implement a knife/cutting application in a 100% collaborative environment without any safety fencing around it. Why not start with the easy fixes such as simple pick & place applications. More advanced assembly tasks etc.

One of our very successful applications is machine tending. Implementing robots next to advanced machinery makes your employee´s more effective in terms of quality control, continuous production and also longer and more effective production time on these advanced machines.

SMF: What needs to be done to change attitudes to cobots in the UK?

PKP: The UK Manufacturing world needs to see these robots as the tool it is. Not the “big” next robot project. Forget about the term robot cell. The robots, for example from UR, are offering a replacement of the human arm. Give it to your employees and they will in a short amount of time show themselves more effective. A MIT study shows an increase of efficiency in paid man hours of up to 85% in collaborative work environments between humans and collaborative robots from UR - the human idle time dropped dramatically.

SMF: What does the future hold for cobots?

PKP: We will in the next 3-7 years see a huge development in the industry of collaborative robots. We will see a huge development in end-effectors. Universal Robots have this year introduced Universal Robots +. This is a market place for developers around the world, where they can offer their new development to endusers worldwide. The app store of robotics… Universal Robots + combined with Universal Robots Academy, which is a “free to use” e-learning program we go from talking only about flexible automation technology to focusing on easy available low cost automation technology.

SMF: If manufacturers don’t embrace future cobot technology will this handicap UK productivity and future growth?

PKP: Absolutely. If the UK keeps making the installations more complex in terms of health & safety issues, future cobot workplaces will be much more expensive than what happens in the world outside the UK.

At Universal Robots we like to say: We do not sell technology… We just sell a tool that lowers our customers production costs. If you take out all the benefits of a new technology, all you have left is the old technology.

SMF: Can you see any indication that Brexit has or is focusing people’s minds towards technologies such as cobots?

PKP: We do not see Brexit changing peoples mind, but with the upcoming Brexit, the demand in the UK for more flexibility and lower production costs is becoming more obvious.

SMF: Are you confident for the future of the technology in Britain?

PKP: Yes. The future is collaborative also in the UK. The technology also had a slow start in other countries. But the big companies saw the benefits of cobots and went into collaboration with local legislatures in making mutual guidelines.

We see the same trends now in the UK.

For further information please visit: