Man & robot in modern production plants

An ever increasing number of companies are discovering the benefits of innovation and digitalisation. By applying technological innovations such as artificial intelligence, Virtual Reality, robots and cobots, etc., you can considerably increase the efficiency of your business. In this article, we will focus on the role of robots in manufacturing companies.


Robots in production

The use of robots in a production environment is not a recent development. As early as in the 1960s, the industry already used robots for repetitive tasks such as pick-and-place applications or for handling hot and heavy parts.

In the 1970s, the automotive industry introduced robots in their paint shops and for spot welding car chassis and bodywork. Companies in other industries recognised the benefits and soon started investing heavily in the development of robots. This evolution gained pace following the progress in computer technology and the development of solid switching systems. Suddenly, robots could be used for handling more complex materials as well or for techniques such as arc welding.

In the 1980s, the major motivation for the use of robots in factories was ensuring the safety of employees. The general idea was that robots would take over the hazardous tasks on the shop floor. As a result, the number of industrial accidents decreased rapidly.

The technological progress continued and robots became increasingly accurate, easier to programme, smaller, etc., thereby increasing the applicability of these machines.

Today, robots are used in (almost) every production plant in Flanders. They support shop workers in handling physically heavy loads and in carrying out repetitive tasks and/or highly accurate operations.

Man & robot: Working together with robots

A robot as an “equivalent” colleague is not to be expected in the near future. Still, robots and collaborative robots (cobots) in particular can be a particularly useful addition to the production equipment in your company. By supporting workers, their physical strain will decrease. As a result, they will no longer be so worn out at the end of the day, which can only be beneficial to their long-term health. Furthermore, workers will have more time and space for other tasks. We at Flanders Make perform research into the collaboration between man and robot and the consequences of this collaboration on a physical and cognitive level. By measuring the stress levels of operators, amongst other things, we are able to assess whether the use of a robot will be beneficial in a particular context or not, or we can examine how the local situation should be changed to make the investment profitable.

When looking at the future, we can say that robots will provide more and more support to production workers. Robots will also become increasingly smart and accurate so that they can be used more efficiently and for more applications. As a result, they will – in the long run – completely take over certain tasks in the production process. Other tasks, however, will never be taken over by robots. The introduction of robots will also create new jobs as these robots must be installed, programmed and serviced.

Would you like to learn more about the use of robots in your company? Register now for the Flanders Make Symposium: the Future of Manufacturing on 26 November in Antwerp.

Register now for the Flanders Make Symposium

Dirk Torfs - CEO

Dirk Torfs - CEO

Dirk Torfs is CEO of Flanders Make since 2014. Dirk is a Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineer as well as a Doctor in Applied Sciences (KU Leuven). He has over 20 years of experience in management positions in the Flemish industry and is Professor of Quantitative Decision-Making for the Executive MBA programme of the Flanders Business School.

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