For businesses and public sector organisations, robotics and automation promise increased speed and efficiency. But for employees and workers, they can be viewed as a potential threat – machines that take jobs away from human beings.
As organisational consultant Warren Bennis once put it: “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”
It doesn’t need to be this way. There is an expanding list of use cases where the optimal setup is humans working hand-in-hand with machines. Robot-assisted surgery, for instance, allows doctors to blend their expertise with the precision and flexibility of robots to carry out operations that were previously impossible.
Collaborative robots – or cobots – could be appearing in a range of different industries. ABB offers one of the broadest range of cobots on the market, all designed with safety in mind – so the machine can sit directly next to its human colleague, rather than be expensively fenced-off. The company’s cobots have been used in everything from fine foods packing plants to healthcare prototyping.
Lifeline Robotics has built a cobot specifically to swab patients for Covid-19 or other pathogens. This frees up medical professionals to deal with the more expert, human parts of pandemic response.
Wired Workers builds and trains cobots for use by small and medium-sized manufacturing. Once the machine has been taught a task, it carries it out precisely each time – welding, screwing, soldering, sanding or anything else. They also have built in sensors to give them ‘feel’, and will stop instantly if they detect and obstruction.
Other startups in this space are more specialised. Danish company Lifeline Robotics has built a cobot specifically to swab patients for Covid-19 or other pathogens. This frees up medical professionals to deal with the more expert, human parts of pandemic response.
Your next colleague could well be a robot. Just don’t expect them to be much fun at the Christmas party.