In industries facing a grave shortfall of skilled welders, collaborative robots, or cobots, can provide the much needed relief to keep up productivity and production, while retaining existing human workforce as well. By Darrell Adams, Universal Robots
There is a global labour shortage in the welding scene today. Business leaders are struggling to find skilled welders, while traditional industrial welding robots are expensive and challenging to adapt to transient and iterative production runs.
The average age of a welder in the United States today is about 55 years old, with fewer than 20 percent under the age of 35, and is slated to run into a deficit of 400,000 welders by 2024, according to a study by the American Welding Society.
And North America is not even the dominant market for welding. That crown goes to Asia Pacific, with a market size of US$7.04B in 2019, according to Fortune Business Insights, with a sizable demand from construction, automotive steel, and marine industries. Asia Pacific is likely to run into a deficit for skilled welders like America, with declining birth rates as the key culprit.
Already, countries such as Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are facing this problem. For example, by 2060, 40 percent of Japanese population will be over the age of 65, according to a report by The Guardian, and their workforce will be unable to handle the nation’s industrial and economic demands. And that is where automation comes in, including welding.
Embracing Cobots to Retain Staff
Traditionally, robots and automation may be perceived to be a bane to human livelihoods. However, there is a class of robots, known as collaborative robots (cobots), that work nicely alongside humans.
In industries facing a grave shortfall of skilled welders, cobots can provide the much needed relief to keep up productivity and production, while retaining existing human workforce as well.
Unlike larger industrial robots, cobots are nimble and small, much more affordable compared to large industrial robots, and are easy to set up and operate. In the case of Universal Robots’ cobots, they are quick and easy to commission in-house for simple tasks without any expertise in robotics or programming. For more complex applications, Univeral Robots has a comprehensive network of Certified Systems Integrators and Authorised Training Centres that will help businesses get started so that human operators without prior programming experience or knowledge can handle day-to-day operations after the initial installation.
For example, the Vectis Cobot Welding Tool powered by Universal Robots’ UR10e cobot allows human operators to easily and safely design and deploy automated welding jobs. Welders can transition rather easily to become cobot-based welding operators.
“We wanted to build our cobot-based welder on this platform, providing a human-centric and welder-friendly operating ethos, that manufacturers in many other industry verticals enjoy,” says Josh Pawley, director of business development and co-founder of Vectis Automation.
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