Problem: SME’s under-utilize robotics
High wages of industry workers in (Western) Europe make it hard for industries and especially SMEs to bring products to the global market that can compete with low-wage countries such as China and India. These companies loose the competition, unless the higher wages are compensated by higher productivity.
Automation and robotics promise to deliver the required reduction on production costs and increase in productivity. However, currently robots are found almost exclusively in large production facilities in a limited number of industries. Small and Medium Enterprises rarely use advanced robot technology, and rely mostly on a few large machines and a lot of repetitive work by human beings.
In particular, tasks such as assembly/disassembly and auxiliary processing (finishing, machine filling, packaging) are invariantly executed by human workers in industrial SMEs. Example cases include (re)packaging of food or other products, assembly of small-batch products, and finishing tasks such as polishing of automotive part moulds.
All of these example cases concern short-duration batch operations of simple repetitive tasks. Technically, most of the work can be automated easily, but the SMEs consistently report that the investment costs are prohibitively high for all of these cases.