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  /   December 18, 2020   /   By Paul Bubny

The Rise of the Cobots

Among the trends accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the adoption of technology, including the use of robotics. While robots intended to work in place of employees aren’t a new concept, the cobot—a collaborative robot that works alongside humans—is a more recent arrival on the scene.

In the latest edition of the digital The Edge publication, Cushman & Wakefield’s Revathi Greenwood and Sandy Romero report on how cobots are coming into play in sectors ranging from healthcare to industrial.

“COVID-19 has created the need to constantly clean and disinfect high-foot-traffic areas such as grocery stores, airports and hospitals,” write Greenwood and Romero. “Fortunately, cobots are especially well equipped to handle these repetitive tasks.”

Accordingly, as shelter-in-place orders were gradually lifted, “consumers needed assurances that public places were safe,” they continue. “Since cobots can move about in places many of us can’t or may not want to, they help us socially distance by stepping in to do the close human-to-human work for us.”

Warehousing and logistics operations are also deploying cobots, which allow the flow of work “to continue with minor interruptions when warehouse staff need to socially distance,” write Greenwood and Romero. “Due to the non-repetitive nature of fulfillment tasks, cobots are not advanced enough to entirely replace the human touch. Instead, they act as a significant productivity enhancement.”

As more workers begin returning offices around the country, Greenwood and Romero write, cobots can be instrumental in assisting owners and occupiers to promote health and safety. In addition to being co-workers, cobots can also take on the role of care takers, they write.

Employee temperature checks? Bring in a cobot. After-hours deep cleaning of hallways? Cobots are good for that, too. Delivering lunches to office buildings? In several European cities, it’s already a thing.

“As the confidence in robotics being able to navigate in the open increases, expect to encounter cobots with higher regularity,” write Greenwood and Romero. “Potential applications of cobots are countless. In the coming decade, our interactions with cobots will inevitably increase from non-existent to several a day.”

Pictured: Cobots like this Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robot have been introduced into Veterans Administration hospitals to assist in cleaning and disinfection.

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