Challenges for Manufacturing SMEs in the Introduction of Collaborative Robots. Advances in Transdisc

Marie Schnell & Magnus Holm (2022). Challenges for Manufacturing SMEs in the Introduction of Collaborative Robots. Advances in Transdisciplinary Engineering. Volume 21: SPS2022, pp. 173-183.

Collaborative robots, cobots can be an alternative to traditional industrial robots, but for small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs, the adoption still is in an early stage. This study, a combination of literature study and interviews with staff at companies and reserachers, aims to identify the challenges for manufacturing SMEs when introducing cobots in the business so that future work in companies can be based on these finding facilitating a smooth implementation. The mainchallenges identified are related to safety, performance, strategy, involvement, and training. Safety aspects are crucial since human operators work closely with collaborative robots and risk serious injuries even though the managers and operators in the case study do not seem to worry since they perceive the current cobots as relatively slow and safe. Other high-prioritised challenges are related to performance and strategy, e.g., how to achieve cost-effectiveness with small production volumes and get the robotic investment to pay off in the long turn, but also to choose a proper cobot solution and a reliable supplier, find suitable work tasks and obtain quality if the cobot fails to recognize a defective product or skewed inputs on the production line. Employee involvement is another success factor since early involvement of the operators leads to better acceptance and understanding of the new technology and the changed work situation. There is a need for skilled, educated workers as well, although the case study shows that the SMEs highlight the importance of choosing a robot system that is easy to learn and easy to use for everyone. This paper will discuss challenges when introducing cobots in manufacturing SMEs. Access publication.