Technology Banking
innovation | 2 minute read

How co-bots give you superpowers

Collaborative robots are a new strategy for increasing competitiveness and improving working conditions.

Some tasks require a human touch. Others are suited to automation. But what if people and machines worked side by side with both doing what they do best?

That’s the idea behind collaborative robots, or co-bots, that interact directly with people in a defined workspace. Joint research by MIT and BMW found that productivity surged by about 85% when robots and humans teamed up rather than working alone.1

Research showed that productivity surged by 85% when robots and humans teamed up

The global market for co-bots is small now but entering a high-growth phase. At a price point of $24,000, co-bots are cheaper than their industrial counterparts. Their applicability starts on the factory floor, but extends from manufacturing to healthcare, food, the environment, and other industries.

Out of the cage and into the workplace

Collaborative systems differ from industrial robots in other important ways. Typically they work cage-free, or without safety fencing. Co-bots tend to provide unskilled labor for routine or repetitive processes.

They have arms that can mimic human motions from shoulder to wrist. Fine motor skills, combined with computing power, mean they can sort out good and bad parts based on specifications, make welds, and work on circuit boards, among other things.

These steady workers are being humanized to create an emotional attachment to their colleagues. For example, Baxter is a humanoid robot from Rethink Robotics whose face is an LCD display that responds to human interaction.

These co-bots can identify a human coworker, who wears a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, and then initiate the correct planned activities.

Cooperate rather than compete

The fact that co-bots are designed to help rather than replace people has a number of implications:

  1. Division of labor

    Employees become responsible for training and supervising co-bots. Training may include guiding a robot’s arm to teach a job and programming it using a smart phone or tablet.

  2. Skill set

    The shift in responsibilities means that workers must master new skills including technology. A different skill set also broadens workforce opportunities. Bosch, a multinational engineering and electronics company, employs people with severe disabilities to work with co-bots on their assembly line.2

  3. Financial flexibility

    Instead of buying co-bots, another model is to hire them during peak periods as contract workers with a variable cost rather than a capital expense.

  4. Competitiveness

    Small and mid-sized businesses (SMEs) are starting to tap co-bots to better compete with low-wage manufacturers and keep local jobs.

Friends rather than foes

Some fear collaborative robots will eliminate jobs. But co-bots actually may help to retain jobs by making the workplace environment more efficient and desirable. Early indications are that many employees who work with co-bots are happier, more productive, and less physically strained.

Disclosures
  1. “Meet the cobots: Humans and robots together on the factory floor,” by Peggy Hollinger, Financial Times, May 6, 2016.

  2. “How to make working with robots appealing for manufacturing employees, including those with severe disabilities,” February 3, 2016, Fraunhofer IAO

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The information in this report is for educational purposes only and should not be used or construed as financial advice or a recommendation to participate any strategy mentioned herein. Wells Fargo does not guarantee that the information supplied is complete, undertake to advise you of any change in its opinion, or make any guarantees of future results obtained from its use. The concepts discussed in the paper require the assistance of qualified legal counsel and tax advisors, and investors should consult their own attorneys and tax advisors with respect to their own situations.

  1. Silicon Valley Top 150 2017 Silicon Valley Top 150 Public Technology Companies Rankings by Annual Revenue

Disclosures

Securities Products:

Not Insured by FDIC or any Federal Government Agency

May Lose Value

Not a Deposit of or Guaranteed by a Bank or Any Bank Affiliate

© 2019 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Deposit products offered by Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. Deposits held in non-U.S. branches are not FDIC insured.

Wells Fargo Securities is the trade name for the capital markets and investment banking services of Wells Fargo & Company and its subsidiaries, including but not limited to Wells Fargo Securities, LLC, a member of NYSE, FINRA, NFA and SIPC, Wells Fargo Prime Services, LLC, a member of FINRA, NFA and SIPC, and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Wells Fargo Securities, LLC and Wells Fargo Prime Services, LLC are distinct entities from affiliated banks and thrifts.

© 2019 Wells Fargo Asset Management (WFAM) is a trade name used by the asset management businesses of Wells Fargo & Company. Wells Fargo Funds Management, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Company, provides investment advisory and administrative services for Wells Fargo Managed Account Services and Wells Fargo Funds. Other affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company provide subadvisory and other services for the funds. The funds are distributed by Wells Fargo Funds Distributor, LLC, Member FINRA, an affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company. Neither Wells Fargo Funds Distributor nor Wells Fargo Funds Management holds fund shareholder accounts or assets. This material is for general informational and educational purposes only and is NOT intended to provide investment advice or a recommendation of any kind—including a recommendation for any specific investment, strategy, or plan.

© 2019 Wells Fargo Capital Finance. All rights reserved. Products and services require credit approval. Wells Fargo Capital Finance is the trade name for certain asset-based lending services, senior secured lending services, accounts receivable and purchase order finance services, and channel finance services of Wells Fargo & Company and its subsidiaries.

Wells Fargo & Company conducts business outside the U.S. through various companies, including duly authorized and regulated subsidiaries and affiliates in Asia, Canada, and Latin America. In Europe, banking services are provided through Wells Fargo Bank International (WFBI), directly regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland, and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. London Branch, authorized by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the PRA. All products and services may not be available in all countries. Each situation needs to be evaluated individually and is subject to local regulatory requirements.

We provide links to external websites for convenience. Wells Fargo does not endorse and is not responsible for their content, links, privacy or securities policies.

Important notice regarding use of cookies: By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies as described in our Digital Privacy and Cookies Policy.

The opinions expressed in this document are general in nature and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or association. Contact your banker, attorney, accountant or tax advisor with regard to your individual situation. The opinions of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Wells Fargo Capital Finance or any other Wells Fargo entity.

The information in this report is for educational purposes only and should not be used or construed as financial advice or a recommendation to participate any strategy mentioned herein. Wells Fargo does not guarantee that the information supplied is complete, undertake to advise you of any change in its opinion, or make any guarantees of future results obtained from its use. The concepts discussed in the paper require the assistance of qualified legal counsel and tax advisors, and investors should consult their own attorneys and tax advisors with respect to their own situations.

  1. 2017 Silicon Valley Top 150 Public Technology Companies Rankings by Annual Revenue.