2004
Volume 24, Issue 2
  • E-ISSN: 1388-1302

Abstract

SUMMARY

Dutch industrial manufacturers are confronted with a new and promising industrial robot: the collaborative robot (cobot). These small robotic arms are revolutionary as they allow direct and safe interaction with production workers for the very first time. The direct interaction between production worker and cobot has the potential to not only increase efficiency, but also enhance flexibility as it can align the strengths of (wo)man and machine more thoroughly. Currently, Dutch manufacturers are experimenting with cobots. To obtain a first understanding about the use of cobots in Dutch industrial practice and to see what the consequences are for production workers and production work, we conducted an exploratory interview study (N=61). We learnt that most cobots under study are used for the production of one or a few large product batches (mass production) and work highly autonomous. The interaction between cobot and production worker is limited and reduced to production workers preventing the cobot from falling into a standstill. The results tend to be in line with traditional industrial automation practices: an overemphasis on leveraging the technology’s potential and limited attention for the production workers’ work design and decision latitude. HR professionals were not involved and, therefore, miss out on a crucial opportunity to be of an added value.

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