The bogeyman of manufacturing is automation & robotics. You either love them or you really hate them. About half of the manufacturing employees in the world have heard how robots are going to take over the business and they will be out of a job. Nothing could be further from the truth. While some very dangerous or very difficult jobs may be taken over by robotics, for the most part the use of robotics in manufacturing is taking place alongside and with the help of their flesh & blood counterparts.

Those interactions with co-bots, or robots working in cooperation with humanity, are providing some of the biggest improvements in manufacturing that we’ve seen in decades.

Co-bots got their start about 20 years ago but they have only been commercially available for about 10 years.  They were invented originally in the 90s and some of the grants that went into researching them came from giant motor companies such as General Motors. They wanted robots that would work in collaboration with humans, helping them with lifting and other things.

In the latter part of 1996, two people at Northwestern University came up with the cobots of today. GM called them IAD or intelligent Assist Device, but the Cobot term stuck and was more rapidly accepted.

What are the Benefits of Co-bots?

It’s a whole new world so far as the competition in manufacturing. With AI and Machine learning and many other things, falling behind your competition simply isn’t an option. It’s the fast and easy way to be out of business. Co-bots can help you to do more and do it more quickly. Simply stated they are the way to get ahead of the competition and stay there.

They are suitable for small to midscale production and they offer you a far improved return on your initial investment. Co-bots also offer you a much safer work environment because they can do much of the difficult and dangerous work that you require completed.

The other added benefit of co-bots is they still require engineering and tech support.  Many engineering jobs that seemed obsolete are now back in play so don’t neglect hardware engineering specialization. It’s back in vogue.

Co-bots, no matter how you slice it, are the wave of the future. Companies need to take a hard look at what they have to offer. In manufacturing as in any other technology driven arena… you either ride the wave, or you sink.

James Kemper is the president of W. H. Meanor & Associates, an executive placement & training company specializing in engineering & manufacturing careers.  Register to receive regular blog posts and industry specific articles at: http://eepurl.com/dtKsDL or visit at www.whmeanor.com