What are Cobots?
“Cobot” is short for collaborative robot. Cobots are a type of robot that are used in tandem with humans, often in production, manufacturing, or industrial environments.
They differ from other robots which are typically operate in isolation from human contact.
What do Cobots Do?
Robots are used in many industries, particularly when it comes to performing jobs that are specialized, labor-intensive, dangerous, or mundane. Robots are prevalent in production-based environments because they can work longer hours than humans, they are a fixed cost, and they can perform tasks with higher levels of accuracy, speed, and repetition.
But robots that perform tasks on manufacturing lines or in production environments are often very large and need specialty areas to perform their tasks away from human interaction for safety precaution.
These constraints have limited the use cases where robots can be implemented.
Now with the proliferation of cobots, which are safe to work in tandem with humans, there are more opportunities to leverage robotics to improve production.
A few examples of where co-bots are used include:
- Picking products from storage and handing them over to humans for the packaging.
- Loading and unloading products for humans to sort or transport.
- Inspection of parts and sorting the damaged from the intact for humans to then process.
- Assembling parts of products for humans to then place into packages for shipping.
- Cleaning or stripping products from returns for humans to process as refurbished goods.
The Many Benefits of Cobots in Fulfillment
Fulfillment and logistics are industries built on human operators, moving products around the globe, packaging them perfectly for the best unboxing experience. Cobots have been a big step in creating automated processes in more areas of the fulfillment environment.
For example, building up palates of boxes and products used to be a manual job only. It’s rare that palates can be assembled in an area away from other operators—the process is integral to the loading and unloading of goods for shipping. Using cobots for pallatization can help move inventory faster and without injury.
“Working with robots and automated processes means we are better able to cope with the high peaks in volume.”
A few examples of how cobots increase productivity and efficiency in fulfillment:
- Longer hours. Humans need breaks, mealtimes, and to go home to their families on evenings and weekends. Cobots can work longer hours for the same amount of pay (upfront costs, plus maintenance). Using cobots can increase the operational hours of a fulfillment center.
- Fixed costs. A fulfillment provider only needs to pay for their cobot once, upfront. It may be a large expense at once, but it will pay off over time.
- Supplemental labor. During the COVID pandemic, many industries were hit hard by a labor shortage. Finding and retaining quality labor became next to impossible. Facilities with cobots were able continue a higher level of production output than those without cobots.
- Greater accuracy. Because their work is automated, robots inherently produce less errors than humans. Once they are adequately programmed to execute specific tasks, their error rate is very low. In an environment like fulfillment where accuracy is important, cobots are a big asset.
- Increase capacity. Because they work more effectively than humans alone, cobots can help process more orders in a given period of time. As the ecommerce industry grows, so does the number of orders.
A few other use cases for co-bots in fulfillment include:
- Reach higher in storage than humans.
- Find stored products faster when picking.
- Move faster when packing products into boxes.
- Repeat tasks easier, like taping or labeling boxes, and with less injury.
- Sort items faster, like into carrier piles or returned goods.
The ecommerce industry is rapidly expanding as consumers are shopping online more and more. To meet this demand fulfillment providers need to automate the tasks that they can to increase their capacity. Cobots are an invaluable asset to the fulfillment process.
If you are a high-growth brand looking for a 3PL to scale with your growth, DCL Logistics has a proven track record of helping brands like you. Reach out for a quote, or to hear more about the automation processes we have to support your growth—cobots and all.