Robots are also having a major impact across the manufacturing landscape, as industries are changing to keep up with consumer demand and behavior. Expectations for more customization and faster turn-around times have forced manufacturers to change their operations to respond to this new demand, including more localized facilities with quickly reconfigurable production lines.
Increasing consumer demand is driving a shift away from low mix, high volume manufacturing towards high mix, low volume manufacturing, which demands greater flexibility on the factory floor. So now, if a consumer wants a bubblegum pink sports car with gold initials engraved on the hood, they can get it, thanks to customization brought on by the prevalence of robots. Beyond this, ROI for automation is increasing as robots become more affordable while enabling greater productivity and flexibility.
Traditional industrial robots like those seen at auto manufacturers, operate at high speed and often with very large payloads, so they need to be separated from humans using safety cages or light curtains. These types of robots are continuing to advance, demanding higher precision motion control, improved multi-axis synchronization, and size and power efficiencies.
Collaborative robots (cobots) are also on the rise and are enabling automation of tasks that were previously only possible with humans. Cobots are much easier and cheaper to install than traditional industrial robots and have a lower purchase cost. Businesses can install and set up the robot and program it themselves. This leads to more manufacturers adopting automation where they previously could not afford to, all the while experiencing a reduced total cost of ownership (TCO).