Your next colleague could be an industrial robot. Ford has a pilot project which could pave the way for humans and robots to eventually work hand-in-hand in all of the automaker’s assembly lines worldwide.
The automaker has new collaborative robots, known as co-bots, helping workers fit shock absorbers to Fiesta cars in Ford’s assembly plant in Cologne, Germany. The task involves co-bots and employees working together to ensure a perfect fit every time. If this trial run goes smoothly, Ford could ramp up its co-bots corps in more of its plants in the near future.
“If we deem that is efficient enough, we can take a look at including them in other plants,” Ford rep Karl Henkel told me today. “The co-bots are an ‘and’ proposition and not a ‘or’ proposition. It’s not ‘can this robot do what a worker cannot do?’ They’re complementary, working together as a team.”
Ford strategically picked fitting shock absorbers as the task because it’s typically a strenuous job that keeps workers on the assembly line for seven to eight hours. Co-bots, which stand just over three feet, help with that. Take a look at the co-bots and assembly workers collaborate in action.
According to Henkel, Ford’s trial run with the worker-robot collaboration in Cologne is part of the company furthering its investigation in Industry 4.0 Automation, which embraces these co-bots and other automated technologies on the assembly line and beyond.