Manufacturing facilities of the future will undoubtedly be more agile and autonomous. But in order to do so, a number of critical challenges must be addressed.
One of the most concerning manufacturing hurdles is the increased cost of equipment and advanced technologies required for digitalization. Another is an acute labor shortage. According to a study by Deloitte, in the US there is an estimated 2.4 million manufacturing positions left unfilled between 2018 and 2028.
Another pressing challenge for manufacturers is the ongoing skills gap for programming, integrating and operating the robots and the capabilities operators possess. Training employees to program is costly and time-consuming.
For manufacturers to become agile and autonomous, robots must be faster and easier to program and implement. The so-called ‘no code’ revolution promises to do just that.
Instead of investing time and resources on training employees on difficult programming languages that will become obsolete after a few years, companies can benefit from acquiring no-code robots. Not only are they easier to operate, but also more cost efficient and flexible too.
The no-code revolution consists of a series of tools that have been created to democratize utilization of technology that was formerly inaccessible to most. Its aim is to simplify complicated processes, like programming, to allow more people to use robotics and address some of the challenges of manufacturing.
Ease of Use
One of the core ideas of the democratization of coding is allowing more people to install and use a robot without programming knowledge. Hence, the main advantage of no-code robotics is its ease of use.
With no-code robotics, teaching a robot to do a job can be as easy as moving its arms for the desired task. Not only that, but robots can also switch easily from one application to another, increasing their cost effectiveness for manufacturers.
For example, robotics experts at Wandelbots designed robots that can carry out modified or completely new tasks in a matter of minutes. They can do so remotely and without any prior programming. Similarly, ABB Robotics is using a platform, named Wizard, to program its single-arm YuMi cobot — an easy graphical interface allowing users to simply drag and drop functions and see the results in seconds.
Instead of investing in multiple robots for a specific task, no-code robots can be reprogrammed to do different jobs by adjusting their arm for the next action. This option could prove highly profitable, especially for smaller companies, and ensure a quick return on investment (ROI).
Traditional industrial robots are usually bulky, expensive, inflexible, difficult to program and require safety fencing and dedicated floor space. This kind of investment might prove too big a task for smaller manufacturers.
On the other hand, no-code robots and cobots are lightweight, space-saving and easy to redeploy and reprogram. For example, Universal Robots‘ UR10 weighs less than 30 pounds (just over 60kg), making it easy to be moved from one location to another on the factory floor. With intuitive 3D visualization, operators simply move the cobot arm to desired waypoints, reducing teaching time to less than an hour. The same action can then be reproduced to teach the cobot a different task.
Although automation is becoming more flexible and autonomous, requiring less input from users, coding will remain essential for more complex tasks, such as in palletizing applications. Nevertheless, by making robots easier to deploy, automation becomes more democratized and scalable.
For the time being, no-code robots are used in simple applications, due to the technical difficulty of teaching robots to perform autonomously without any programming. However, the no-code revolution is indeed a trend to watch in the coming years.
About the Author
Claudia Jarrett is the Country Manager for industrial automation components supplier EU Automation. In that role she oversees the operations of the company’s affiliation in the United States, while helping to develop new business and deliver growth via a multi-channel approach, that has a significant positive impact on business.