In the paradigm of the smart factory, flexible and scalable manufacturing resources are essential. The human worker offers great flexibility, however, in high-wage countries, the human operators are often a sparse resource. Consequently, they are often responsible for several tasks at once, and must prioritize the most critical task. Consequently, the productivity of less critical manual tasks might suffer in the absence of the operator.
This project studied the effect on productivity when deploying a collaborative robot assistant in a plug and produce fashion to seamlessly substitute a human worker at manual workstations on a production line. A collaborative robot assistant was integrated into a moduler, cyber-physical production line in a lab setting, and used to demonstrate the feasibility of the plug-and-produce approach. Based on cycle times and changeover times derived from physical experiments, the operational impact of using the robots was determined on larger scale using a discrete event simulation of several scenarios.
In this project we demonstrated how robot assistants can be used as flexible helper for the human operators in a dynamic production scenario. I.e. when an operator must leave his/her workstation, a robot assistant can take over until the operator comes back.