What Happens When Humans And Robots Join Forces?
Hundreds of companies in more than 50 countries are using ABB’s collaborative robots, or “cobots,” to realize safer, more efficient manufacturing processes. In fact, you’ll almost certainly use a product built by ABB’s intelligent machines at some point today. From the walls around you to the device in your hand, ABB’s robots were probably involved.
The robotics company, based in Switzerland, builds industrial robots and cobots that are used to perform meticulous, rapid, efficient functions. But ABB robots do more than just build things: they keep our power grid running while experimenting with clean sources like wind and solar. They’ve made charging electric cars faster and easier. And last time you took a cruise, it was likely propelled by ABB’s industry-leading Azipod propulsion system.
ABB is used in so many industries, from power generation to printing, from aluminum to automotive, that the company is practically omnipresent. But one of ABB’s most attention-grabbing (and downright cool) innovations has to be their cobot, YuMi.
Microsoft’s Transform recently interviewed Rami-Johan Jokela, group VP and head of digitization at ABB, about the increasing role of ABB robots and cobots in our world. We’d like to share some of our favorite excerpts from the conversation.
TRANSFORM: ABB robots manufacture, in part or entirely, most cars on the road. They finish furniture. They help make laptops and smartphones. How integral are ABB robots to our consumer lives?
RAMI-JOHAN JOKELA: ABB robots are everywhere.
For example, they package the foods we eat and beverages we drink for some of the biggest brands. Our robots also make solar panels, glassware, cookers, dishwashers and metal sinks. They’re used by pharmaceutical companies and by hospitals.
We have miniature robots doing service tasks. We have huge robots doing dangerous tasks.
TRANSFORM: It sounds like ABB robots boost efficiencies across many industries.
JOKELA: Our connected robot platform, which runs on Azure, allows every robot to be connected to the Internet of Things to do things like condition monitoring and diagnostics, backup management and fleet assessment.
This extends capabilities of the first-line engineers and can prevent up to 25 percent of (breakdown) incidents and speed issue resolution and response time by up to 60 percent.
TRANSFORM: How is ABB changing the way humans and robots collaborate?
JOKELA: We have invented a new way for humans and robots to work in close proximity. Normally, you have a cage around the robot and if a person comes into the safety zone, the robot stops.
Our YuMi robot cooperates with human beings. The human can be close to YuMi. They can even touch elbows and the robot will keep working. YuMi runs on Azure and connects to the Internet of Things, using data-driven analytics to improve performance and reliability of the equipment and the process.
YuMi is about the size of a small person and can be installed on the production line. It can be taught a process by being physically guided through it. So, no more programming. Instead, the robot will think: This is my next task to do.