Robots, Humans Work Hand-in-Hand at Ford Cologne PlantRobots, Humans Work Hand-in-Hand at Ford Cologne Plant
Ford is testing Industry 4.0 manufacturing principles with a shock-absorber installation trial.
July 19, 2016
By Alan Harman
Ford assembly-line staff in Europe are working hand-in-hand with collaborative robots – known as co-bots – to fit shock absorbers to Fiesta cars.
It’s job requiring pinpoint accuracy, strength and dexterity, and the co-bots ensure a perfect fit and relieve workers from having to access hard-to-reach places.
The trial at the Ford plant in Cologne, Germany, is part of what Ford calls Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution embracing automation, data exchange and manufacturing technologies.
Ford says it is among the first automakers to develop the new, closely integrated approach to humans and robots working together on the assembly line.
Vehicle Operation Director Karl Anton says Ford of Europe obtained feedback from more than 1,000 production-line workers to identify tasks best suited for the new robots that come equipped with a human-like hand.
“Robots are helping make tasks easier, safer and quicker, complementing our employees with abilities that open up unlimited worlds of production and design for new Ford models,” Anton says in a statement.
The 3.3 ft. (1-m) tall robots operate at two work stations. Instead of having to manipulate a heavy shock absorber and installation tool, the workers use the robot to lift and automatically position the shock absorber into the wheel arch, before pushing a button to complete installation.
“Working overhead with heavy air-powered tools is a tough job that requires strength, stamina, and accuracy,” Cologne production worker Ngali Bongongo says. “The robot is a real help.”
They can even high-five each other at the end of the job.
To ensure worker safety, high-tech sensors stop the co-bots immediately if they detect an arm or even a finger in their path.
Ford worked with German robot manufacturer Kuka Robter on the 2-year development program.
The automaker says it is looking at further use of collaborative robots programmed to perform tasks ranging from shaking hands to making coffee.
This article was originally published in our sister publication WardsAuto.
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