A group of research centers, chambers of commerce and knowledge institutes across four European countries is offering to support small and midsize manufacturing companies in integrating collaborative robots into their production processes.
The COTEMACO project, a group with members from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the U.K., will offer SMEs within the automotive and food industries the chance to gain hands-on experience with digital technologies, including cobots, in four regional field labs in those countries. The group said with knowledge accumulated from expert partners, the SMES can then invest in the technology best suited for them in order to strengthen their competitive position in Europe.
“Collaborative robots can have a greater impact on the manufacturing industry than, for example, 3D printing,” said Maarten Witters, a project manager at Flanders Make, the Belgian research center leading the project. “They work safely with people and support them, among other things, to deal with heavy loads. Because they can be used for different tasks, they play an important role in flexible production. We want to make SMEs aware of the potential of this technology by providing them with comprehensive information and allowing them to work with cobots in recognizable conditions via testing grounds. In this way, we can convince them to make effective use of the technology.”
The group said manufacturing is considered a key industry in Northwestern Europe, yet many manufacturing SMEs struggle to maintain cost competitiveness against larger-scale production facilities in low-wage economies. In addition, the manufacturing sector faces workforce shortages as employees often perform under-stimulating, physically repetitive tasks that contribute to negative health effects, the group said. It added that few SMEs are fully aware of how cobots can contribute to the goal of boosting their competitiveness through production flexibility.
The SME support program will offer reimbursed travel to the field labs and funded cobot adoption services, such as a feasibility study, business case, and investment plans. The group said support available will be tailored to the needs of individual businesses, and COTEMACO partners will guide participants through each step, “to provide the right support at the right time.”
Interested companies can sign up for more information here.