Cobots, or co-robots, are robots designed to operate alongside humans in a shared workspace such as a warehouse. These non-autonomous robots are increasing in use across supply chains, as well as many other industries, in order to improve efficiency and safety throughout the workspace. These robots work in tandem with humans, rather than replacing them, which helps to increase the productivity of workplaces in which they are installed.
By interacting with humans in a shared workplace, like a warehouse, cobots add to the functionality of a warehouse quickly an easily. They are designed to take over repetitive or strenuous manual labor tasks, or tasks which would be unsafe to have a human complete, while leaving the complex problem solving and thought-processes to their human co-workers. This means that each group tackles tasks which they are best at, and can do most efficiently. Robots in warehouses are being used for the movement of products, construction or movement of shelving units, and even for inventory tracking from above via drones. Human workers, on the other hand, are responsible for picking and packing, inventory control, and product integrity. The workers are also responsible for analyzing and reporting on the data accumulated by their robotic counterparts.
As more and more workplaces across North America rollout non-autonomous robotic workers, workplace health and safety regulations may need to adapt. Managing the interactions between humans and their cobots will be essential to the improvement and advancement of industry success.