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Robots vs cobots – which is best for your business?

4 min read

One of the more important choices to make when thinking about automating your manufacturing process is whether to  opt for industrial robots or collaborative robots (cobots). There are many differences between the two, so it’s really important that you know the advantages of both systems before making your decision.

The experts at RNA automation explain to help you to understand how automation can impact your business in the right way, and which system will streamline your production process the most effectively.

The difference between robots and cobots

When people think of robots, often they think of creations like something from star wars, but in real life robots are usually big impressive machines that automate production processes. This kind of robot is perfect for companies that manufacture high volumes of one consistent product – like factories that only make chocolate biscuits. These robots are designed to complete repetitive, high volume tasks without human intervention – often tasks that would be potentially dangerous for humans. These robots can improve efficiency tenfold, as well as ensuring your workforce are safe and free to concentrate on tasks where a human operator is needed. 

Collaborative robots (or “cobots”) are designed to work alongside humans. Similarly to robots, they were designed to undertake repetitive tasks that are potentially risky. However, instead of ticking along with no human intervention, cobots are designed to operate more like an assistant to human operators. They can create a more efficient and much safer workspace, as well as cutting down on human error, without actually removing the need for human intervention. Cobots are well suited to manufacturers with a lower volume/higher mix production, rather than manufacturers who make a lot of the same thing.

Both robots and cobots have their pros and cons, and which is best for your business will depend completely on your needs and the type of manufacturing business that you’re running. Both of these robot types have their strengths and limitations, and these are critical to weigh up in order to chart a successful future.

The pros and cons of industrial robots

Robots certainly have a leg up on cobots in terms of speed and volume. They can perform incredibly complex tasks very efficiently, with a high volume input and output.  They can make a really enormous impact on the manufacturing processes of even very large companies. If big gains in productivity are what your business needs, bespoke  industrial robots may be the best choice for you. 

However, this speed and force also has a flipside. Substantial safety infrastructure and processes will need building into your business’s operations. The robots themselves usually require a cage or something similar to keep humans out of the robot’s work space  and safe from injury and harm. It’s worth noting that integrating industrial robots may bring with it the need for workforce training and safety equipment and procedures, all of which costs money and resources.

Speaking of cost, industrial robots do come with a higher price tag than cobots. This is because their output can be higher and they usually need to be integrated into more specialised manufacturing systems than a cobot would be. It’s also important to consider the need for professional services to programme, as this is likely to come at an extra cost.

The pros and cons of cobots

Cobots are by far the cheaper of the two options. This is due to their slower speeds and smaller volume output. However, this relatively low price tag makes cobots far more accessible to businesses that aren’t quite as flush with cash, and means that the cobots are more likely to deliver a speedy return on investment. 

Cobots are also much safer to use and manage than industrial robots, meaning that they can integrate into your workspace with little disruption and minimal programming. Cobots are small and lightweight enough that they can easily be moved and redeployed to automate different processes, putting versatility and cost-effectiveness on their side. 

However, cobots are not suitable for heavy manufacturing work, or to take over tasks from factory workers entirely. Cobots are specifically designed to work together with humans and perform best as a minimally disruptive solution. Cobots should not be considered a more affordable alternative to industrial robots as they are both suited to different applications. 
When making the decision between industrial or collaborative robots, you need to work out exactly what you want to accomplish. Do you want to increase your production, or increase your worker safety? Perhaps you want to reduce your scrap levels? Whatever it is, speak to experts who can help you and undertake an audit to see which robot solution makes the best operational and financial sense for your needs. Contact the team here at RNA for more advice or to find out what we can do for you. 

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