Typically, robots in factories haven’t worked alongside humans. Safety concerns have kept them contained in cages away from workers so no one is injured or maimed and manufacturing insurance is kept to a minimum.
Now, however, technology is beginning to change that. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, companies including Japan’s Kawada Industries, Inc. and Fanuc Corp. are creating more dexterous robots to perform delicate tasks such as assembling smartphones that they were previously too bulky and uncoordinated to perform.
Switzerland-based ABB’s global product manager for small robots Nicolas de Keijser stated that the robots weren’t meant to replace humans in factories, but as a complement to them. The switch, if the technology pans out, could cut labor costs, and could even reduce the allure of low wage countries. Currently, robots are typically used in making cars and semiconductors or other goods produced in high volumes. Kawada’s robot starts at about $90,000 for the basic model.
In theory, robots are designed and capable of making just about everything. They can perform some tasks much more efficiently than humans. However, robots do not have the flexibility to adapt that humans do. If an issue arises, or a part isn’t exactly where it’s supposed to be, the robot can’t perform. In addition, programming the robots for various tasks can take months, but consumer electronics have short product life cycles- many manufacturers can’t wait for reprogramming every time a design changes.
Currently, many start-ups are putting a lot of research into developing robots for manufacturing. One is making focusing on small manufacturers and making a robot with an easy interface more similar to that of an iPhone. Another is looking into a robot that can jointly assemble airplane parts. One even programmed a robot to make a margarita, not to replace bartenders, but to show that a robot can function in a unpredictable environment.
Sinclair Risk & Financial Management has the vast experience required to serve the complex industry of Manufacturing. Our breadth and depth of expertise and understanding for not only your business but also the market in which you operate gives us the ability to help you plan for potential losses and liabilities. Contact us today for more information.