Manufacturers are experimenting with new ways to use robots in their processes by having them work alongside humans, not just in place of them.
Workers are now using robotic exoskeletons to cut down on physical fatigue. As spatial awareness technology is added to robots, robots can safely perform their work alongside human workers. While it’s true that robots have replaced some jobs human workers previously performed, manufacturers are finding that robots are instead more efficiently used to enhance human workers’ productivity.
Robotic exoskeletons can reduce repetitive stress injuries, and robots that can perform heavy lifting continue to help workers avoid strenuous tasks that can cause injury long-term. Julie Shah, an MIT professor who researches human-machine collaboration, has found that humans and robots collaborating efficiently are more productive than when either group works alone. For example, per an MIT Technology Review article, “How Human-Robot Teamwork Will Upend Manufacturing,” cooperative robot and human teams can reduce human idle time by up to 85 percent.
As costs decrease and the process behind programming a robot to perform a function becomes simpler, we can expect smaller manufacturers to begin benefiting from the efficiencies that robots have been offering larger manufacturers for years.
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