Cobots are key to unlocking human creativity and innovation in manufacturing

18 September 2023

The increasing use of robots that work collaboratively with humans (cobots) will enable innovation, boost productivity and improve workplace safety and mental health in the manufacturing industry, according to research involving 450 European manufacturers, commissioned by Protolabs.

The research report: ‘The Balancing Act: Unlocking Innovation in Manufacturing’, comprises attitudes and insights from senior execs in manufacturing organisations and examines how they are adopting new ways of working in their quest to overcome challenges and foster innovation.

More than two-thirds of respondents currently work with cobots or plan to do so in the near future. A total of 57% say the technology will support better idea generation and 56% believe it will improve employee productivity. 

Cobots are credited with having a positive influence on wellbeing as well as productivity: 56% say they will contribute towards a safer working environment and 54% think their deployment will augment their employees’ mental health. These benefits will help address the growing skills gap in the sector, enabling employers to attract top talent and employees to spend more time on learning and development.

The research also counters concerns that cobots will replace human workers – 53% of respondents say that they expect their implementation to drive an increase in the human workforce and 55% say it will increase the need for staff training and upskilling.  

Commenting on the report findings, Peter Richards, VP Marketing and Sales EMEA at Protolabs Europe, said: “Our research shows that manufacturing is entering a period of significant and ultimately positive change. As organisations look to create new products and reduce costs, the use of robotics is proving to be integral to the continued transformation of efficiency. Cobots and automation open up a world of opportunities, freeing up workers to be more creative and enabling new working patterns.

“Cobots can take on repetitive and heavy tasks, which not only lightens the physical and mental burden on staff, but also provides resilience to manufacturers who are struggling with unskilled labour shortages. As manufacturers increasingly look to bring their supply chains closer to home, cobots will be indispensable as they support the workforce, speed up processes and help reduce production costs.”

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