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Overcoming Labour Shortages with Cobots

Facing increased customer demand, space limitations and a shortage of skilled workers, it is more important than ever for companies to think creatively about their production efficiency. 

Collaborative robots and automation rollouts are largely being driven by labour shortages, transforming the way industries work and shaping a new landscape of manufacturing for the future. 

Labour shortages have been a threat to the manufacturing industry for the last few decades, with the absence of skilled workers one of the biggest constraints holding back business growth. While customer demand continues to grow, for manufacturers facing difficulties filling certain roles cobots could provide an alternative and viable solution. 

Skills and labour shortages in the UK

Long-term labour shortages have been exacerbated by a number of factors. From Brexit legislation changes, the Covid pandemic, an ageing population, fewer young workers entering the labour market, and technology skill gaps.

The changing demographic of the workforce is leaving UK manufacturers to face the largest shortage of skilled workers since 1989, with many remarking this shortfall as their biggest business challenge.

With a diminishing worker pool, many positions are simply being left unfilled, resulting in a sparse workforce and causing low productivity, poor product quality, and the inability to meet customers demands and expectations.

Despite the continued growing demand for goods, labour and skills shortages are severely impacting businesses opportunities for growth. In a recent report, 75% of businesses said they had experienced difficulties filling vacancies and a shortage of workers. 46% of those admitted they had been unable to meet output demands, and 26% said they have had to reduce or make changes to the products or services they offer.

Labour shortages are also impacting existing workers, who are faced with an increase in work pressure in order to still be able to meet the growing demand for production.

In order to overcome these challenges, it is important for manufacturers to invest in developing and expanding new technologies, such as cobots. Manufacturing processes inherently favour automation, improving efficiency, reliability and enabling production to run at full capacity.

human machine tending with cobotend

How can cobots help overcome acute labour shortages?

Automation and collaborative robots are often seen as a threat by workers, when in fact cobots regularly perform tasks hand-in-hand with human workers. Cobots optimise processes, improve production and relieve pressure of workers, in turn having a positive effect on the workforce.

Making automation possible for everyone, including small and medium sized businesses, cobots can perform complex tasks with minimal effort and fill urgent labour gaps.

Cobots take over menial tasks

Cobots are designed to take over dangerous, monotonous and dirty jobs, as well as other lower-skilled positions that can be easily automated. They provide accuracy and repetitive mass production at high efficiency.

Automating certain aspects of production frees up a company's valuable workforce to focus on adding value to the business in areas that require a human touch. Existing employees can be upskilled and develop on a personal level, focusing on more valuable and fulfilling work to create a harmonious working environment. 

Flexible solutions

From heavy machine tending to small precision work, any task is a candidate for automation with cobots. They are intuitive to program and, with the option of a range of end of arm toolings, are highly adaptable.

Automation brings flexibility to production lines, with any role experiencing labour shortages easily filled by cobots as they can pick up where your worker left off.

Agile and inexpensive

With correct deployment, cobots can become cost neutral within a short period of time. They perform reliably and with a high level of accuracy. With their ability to continue working around the clock, cobots provide businesses with the competitive advantage of lights out manufacturing to improve production and fill customers orders quicker.

Cobots can be set up and deployed in less than an hour. Their ability to quickly switch between tasks means they can fill rolls in production as gaps on the factory floor occur. 

Safety first

Cobots compliment your existing workforce and are designed to work safely alongside them. With built-in features to detect interference and nearby dangers, cobots will halt operations to ensure workers safety. 

Many manufacturers are finding it increasingly difficult to hire workers to undertake lifting, stacking and packing duties. Palletising and packing tasks are ideal candidates for automation, with cobots minimising health and safety risks to the workforce. 

Supporting the next generation of workers

Recent data from EDSK, an education think tank, found that nearly 50% of apprentices in the 2021-2022 academic year failed to complete their course. The majority of people cited “poor quality” of schemes, including lack of training, facilities, and bad management.

Investing in vocational educational and training services at colleges and universities can help shape the next generation of workers. Aligning their skills to the needs of modern day manufacturers is a viable solution for plugging the skills gap and overcoming the UK’s labour shortage.

Cobots Online supported Darlington College in 2022 to train the next generation of workers in the manufacturing of not only the future, but the here and now. 

Darlingtib College Robotics and Automation Manufacturing Lab

Cobots Online worked alongside Darlington College in 2022 to develop a cobotics centre of excellence in the North East. The Robotics and Automation Manufacturing Lab provides students with high-tech training through the provision of a specialist training environment housing industry specification robotics equipment.

The training facilities will train the next generation of workers on how to install, adapt, programme, maintain and repair cobots. Students will graduate with the skills and knowledge needed to fit the needs of modern manufacturing, adapting to the changing landscape of collaborative robots and helping to solve labour shortages. 

Meet your cobots co-workers today

To ensure that cobots are the best solution for your company, it is important to consider what your cobot will be used for, for how long, and what internal and external resources are required to make them successful. All of these things and more the team at Cobots Online can help you with. 

Contact our team of automation experts today to learn how cobots can solve your labour shortages and arrange a visit to our showroom to see cobots in action.

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