Robots in automotive factories are not a new trend. However, they have always been understood as somewhat of an opposition for human workers. But this notion is changing as more and more factories are introducing programs for people and robots to work together as colleagues. Now Ford introduced close cooperation between a robot and human in a factory in Cologne, Germany.
Actual people workers provide a great value in automotive plants. They can do their job more carefully and can adapt quickly to changing circumstances if they see an obstacle in their way. However, humans are not very strong and get tired relatively quickly. Furthermore, it is important to ensure they feel comfortable and do not face any work-related injuries or health issues. This is why Ford started using collaborative robots, also known as co-bots, in Fiesta assembly line to fit shock absorbers. It is interesting that this task was selected after assembly line workers completed a questionnaire about which tasks are the hardest.
Co-bots are part of Ford’s Industry 4.0 project, which signifies fourth industrial revolution. In fact, these robots, measuring to only a little more than 3 feet (around 91.5 cm.) high, are able to manipulate and install a heavy shock absorber with a supervision of the worker. Actual human only has to tell robot when is the right time and when shock absorber is in the right position for installation. This task requires a lot of accuracy, strength, and a high level of dexterity, but when robots and people are working so close together there is always a question of safety.
These new robots are equipped with high-tech sensors, which allow detecting if human worker is in the way of its movement. In such case, robot stops immediately as to not hurt a person. Similar technologies are used in the pharmaceutical and electronics industries, which means that it should ensure high effectiveness and safety. How helpful it is? Ngali Bongongo, a production worker at Ford’s Cologne plant, said: “Working overhead with heavy air-powered tools is a tough job that requires strength, stamina, and accuracy. The robot is a real help”.
Robots and humans are going to work together more and more. However, working does not mean that it cannot have some fun too. Now Ford is checking robot’s capabilities to perform such tasks as making a coffee or shaking hands.