Collaborative Robots Could Revolutionize Manufacturing Landscape

By Sharada Prahladrao

Industry Trends

New automation trends are revolutionizing the manufacturing landscape. This trend includes increased collaboration and integration between technologies, processes, and people.  ARC explores this dynamic further in a recently published report titled Collaborative Robots Global Market 2017-2022. According to Rajkumar Paira, the report’s author, cobots are key smart factory technologies making manufacturing more efficient and competitive in the global marketplace.  Unlike traditional robots that are complex and heavy, require protective guards, and are designed to function independently or with limited assistance, cobots are generally lightweight, programmable machines designed to work hand in hand with human beings to offer cost-effective, safe, and enhanced automation services to manufacturing of any size.  When asked to provide an example of a recent cobot that has given quantifiable returns, Rajkumar mentioned the GreyOrange Butler PickPal.  

GreyOrange’s Beta Launch of Butler PickPal

GreyOrange’s recent beta launch of its new-gen Butler PickPal is an autonomous picking solution, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine vision. According to the company, PickPal is an autonomous order fulfilment solution for warehouses.  It works seamlessly with the GreyOrange Butler Goods-to-Person system to pick, process, consolidate, and prepare orders. It works collaboratively with a human operator to fulfill orders, almost doubling picking productivity from the same workstation. 

This cobot (an innovative combination of a scanning system and a 6-axis robotic arm), addresses the challenges arising from the global boom in e-commerce as orders need to be fulfilled faster, accurately and cost-efficiently in a competitive world.  Vertical and horizontal e-commerce industries that operate with a huge number of high-mix SKU inventory, require the shortest order-to-dispatch time and accurate piece-picking. The company believes that the material handling segment will experience the largest growth in collaborative robot installments as more companies deploy them within their processes.

Butler PickPal Collaborative Robots

Butler PickPal Cobot in Action

The Butler PickPal can handle different packaging types such as boxes, pouches, bottles and vacuum-sealed packages. It can grasp items up to 4kg (8.8 pounds). According to Butler, it uses machine learning to devise the strategy to pick each item from the densely packed SKU inventory. It can identify and handle over 100,000 SKUs of the most popular products commonly found in its e-commerce operations.

Integrated Strategies Needed to Maximize Benefits of Collaborative Robots

ARC’s report states that collaborative robots are a massive new trend that make life easier for businesses by providing a safe and easy-to-program option and work alongside a human worker. To get the full benefit from human-robot collaboration, manufacturers must develop integrated strategies that combine data analytics, design thinking, anthropological workflow design, and a new partnership ecosystem. 

According to the report, cobot suppliers should target industries such as automotive, electronics & electrical, food & beverage, machinery, and semiconductors as they present tremendous opportunities.  Automation remains a key to modernization for the manufacturing industries to increase efficiency and productivity; and cobots support these key end user objectives.  This is especially important because the manufacturing industries are the prime focus for investments in many countries (developed and developing).

Engage with ARC Advisory Group