Philippine Daily Inquirer
AUTOMATION TURNING MANUFACTURING SECTOR ON ITS HEAD
The urgent need to increase productivity has made manufacturing firms around the world turn to technology, thus ushering the global shift to further automation.
But such technological advancements usually come with a hefty price tag, one that not everybody can afford.
Comes now Danish company Universal Robots, which seeks to provide the market with more accessible and affordable automation solutions.
For years, the market was saturated with heavy, expensive and unwieldy robots.
Universal Robots changed the game by creating a robotic arm that is lightweight, affordable and easy to use, and one that rides on the trend toward the further adoption of collaborative robots or cobots.
Universal Robots was founded in 2005 by three engineers from the University of Southern Denmark: Esben Os- tergaard, Kasper Stoy and Kristian Kassow who wanted to make the robot technology accessible to small and medium enterprises.
The first product of Universal Robots is the UR5. It was sold by distributors in Denmark and Germany in 2008. The UR5 is a six-jointed articulated arm that weighs 18 kilos (40.6 pounds), has a lifting capacity of 5 kilos (11 lb) and a working radius of 850 millimeters.
The robotic arms can be easily moved from one place to another. They can be used in small factory layouts where they are designed to work alongside human employees.
The mechanized arm has a modular, sleek design to minimize the risk of production downtime. The arm
is also equipped with easy programming that allows operators to experience quick set up with intuitive, 3D visualization. With a simple touch of the arrow keys on the easy- to- use touchscreen, the robot arms will move within the prescribed waypoints indicated by the operator. On safety, the cobot requires no safety fence because when it detects intrusion in its prescribed position, it will stop moving. In Japan, Nissan Motor Co. was faced with the reality of an aging workforce in its Yokohama plant, resulting in a highmix low-volume effect. This increased costs and made output unstable in the first quarter of 2017.
To prevent further financial losses, the production process had to be streamlined and labor cost managed.
Nissan turned to Universal Robots for help in improving operations.
“We needed a robot large enough to carry hefty intake manifold components, weighing up to 6 kilograms,” said Nakamura, expert headman for Nissan’s Engine Section.
Nissan picked the UR10—a cobot which can carry up to 10 kilos (22 lb) with a working radius of 1,300 millimeters. It is designed to be more effective at tasks across a larger area, and can save on production lines where distance can be a factor. Within a week, the UR10 robot arms were installed, programmed and operational.
The deployment led to a reduced production time in Nissan as well as allowed employ- ees to do more productive work instead of focusing on monotonous tasks.
It is not just Japan that is welcoming automation. The Philippines is, too.
With the increasing demand for vehicles, the automotive industry here is looking to use cobots to ensure cost-effective increases in manufacturing.
Among the companies that tried their hand at automation is Laguna-based Artesyn Embedded Technology, a semiconductor company offering computing solutions for a wide range of industries including communications, computing, healthcare and industrial automation.
“They were looking out for robots to automate their processes. They did some study on the website. Then they reached out to our partners here. Then I looked at how they were deploying the universal robots. And I have to say is that we are very impressed by how far they have come. They are using the internal workforce to deploy our robots,” said Shermine Gotfredsen, Universal Robots general manager for South Asia and Oceania.
Should the workforce fear the arrival of cobots?
“Absolutely not. If you’re afraid then you will never progress. They have to see the robots as a work tool and not as replacement. This is actually a tool so they can focus on doing something else that is more interesting,” she added.
It also opens the door for "reshoring" for most companies.
Reshoring refers to the act of reintroducing domestic manufacturing to a country.
It is the reverse process of offshoring, where manufacturing is moved to another country where labor is cheaper.
Gotfredsen sees reshoring made easy with automation. The challenges for the reshoring manufacturers will be reduced with the availability of cobots.
Each cobot costs around 20 to 30 thousand euros.
Universal Robots has a global network of 300 sales partners in more than 55 countries.