Implementing collaborative robots in manufacturing plants is one way manufacturers can become more sustainable. Having sustainable operations is a long-term goal for many of these companies. Collaborative robots, also known as cobots, can help drive these efforts.
Cobots are designed to work alongside human workers and enable human-robot collaboration. Though cobots are usually initially implemented to improve efficiency and increase production, they also help advance sustainable manufacturing initiatives.
Digital Technology in Manufacturing Processes
Embracing digital technology within manufacturing helps make operations more sustainable. This enhanced sustainability is achieved a few different ways. First, utilizing collaborative robots for repetitive tasks while human workers focus on more value-added tasks helps improve procedures. Improving procedures is one of the most effective ways to reduce waste.
This overall production improvement offers a twofold benefit: It increases output while also reducing defects and other waste. Cobots can be programmed to detect flaws in production parts, improving the quality of products and working to eliminate waste. Achieving zero waste is a lofty goal for sustainable manufacturing, but cobots provide manufacturers with one way to start reducing waste.
Energy Efficiency and Robotic Automation
Another way collaborative robots in manufacturing help with sustainability is by supporting reduced energy consumption. Cobots work hand in hand with automation and digitization of manufacturing operations when it comes to decreasing energy consumption. This goes beyond just the manufacturing plant.
Cobots use sensors, complex software algorithms and smart machinery that allow them to have close contact with human workers. These technologies also make it possible for human workers to remotely monitor and access the cobots.
Remote monitoring tools allow for someone to supervise cobots without being on-site, reducing the associated travel footprint of a company. These tools can also be used to remotely adjust the performance of cobots, which reduces overall energy consumption during production. Optimizing energy consumption is key to making manufacturing facilities more sustainable.
Local Supply Chains
The implementation and deployment of cobots has helped advance one initiative that is fundamental to sustainable manufacturing: onshoring. Onshoring brings manufacturing back to the U.S. and allows companies to buy more parts locally instead of from other countries. Collaborative robots in manufacturing facilities help local manufacturers better compete with these low-wage countries. This, along with global supply chain problems, has driven corporate onshoring efforts.
These onshoring endeavors also help to improve sustainability in manufacturing. Using local suppliers results in significantly fewer pollutants being emitted during transportation — especially when compared to the emissions associated with international transportation. Onshoring helps to mitigate some of the negative environmental effects of global supply chains.
To learn more about how collaborative robots in manufacturing are driving sustainability initiatives, attend WESTEC.