FINDING THE RIGHT ROBO-WORKER
The best collaborative robots (cobots) have some great qualities, but that doesn’t make using them a no-brainer. Consider the following before you buy a mechanical employee.
RENT THE FUTURE
Some companies, like Hirebotics of Nashville, rent cobots, thereby turning a cap-ex into an op-ex. “Hirebotics comes down, sets them up, programs everything according to our requirements, and charges on the basis of when the robot is working, just like an employee,” says Einar Rosenberg, of Creating Revolutions.
DON’T GET HOOKED
Robots are more precise than humans, but they’re not as fast—unless the humans can’t take their eyes off them. “Some of our projects took a small dip because the cobots are really fun to watch,” says Joe McGillivray, of Dynamic Group. “There’s nothing in nature that is observably that consistent.”
DO THE INSURANCE MATH
There is not a lot of actuarial data on cobots—the machines themselves, or how safely they interact with humans. This can make them difficult to insure. Rosenberg was able to find a policy for $800 a year, but many insurers, including State Farm, will not yet write policies on cobots.
FACTOR IN THE UNKNOWN
Cobots are inexpensive workers. An entry-level, one-armed model can cost less than $30,000, more for an extra arm, special tooling, or custom coding. But, because they’re new, no one can be sure how long these machines will last. The bottom line is that “the cost savings may not be as dramatic as appears at face value,” says Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation.
BOT FOR HIRE Hirebotics will rent you a cobot like this one, made by Universal Robots.