The Importance of Robot Repair and Maintenance
As robotic tech advances and their use is further instilled within multiple workplaces, the vital task of maintenance and repair becomes ever-more pressing. While we’re yet to have truly autonomous examples working in conjunction with humans within the workplace, it’s only a matter of time.
The following discusses some of the challenges yet to be overcome as technology brings us ever closer to the time where human and robotic collaboration within working environments becomes reality.
Understanding Collaboration and Co-Habitation Issues
Collaboration is the term used when humans and robots work together at the same time on a particular task. Commonly referred to as ‘cobots’, it’s essential that, whatever the degree of collaboration, the human can be confident that the robotic element is aware of their presence and adheres to strict rules to negate the risk of causing any damage to its human partner.
Co-habitation refers to a situation where humans and robots are in the same work space, yet working on different tasks.
Some of the risks of both human-robot working relationships have been defined as follows:
- Robots bumping into humans
- Robots (such as drones) falling and the danger this poses to the workforce on the ground
- Robots becoming stuck or lodged within an asset that needs human intervention
- Robots causing injuries to humans while being transported between areas (Up a flight of stairs or over long distances etc.)
- Overlooking robots falling onto humans or other robots below
- Electrocution caused by robot malfunction
While these are, indeed, crucial aspects that are yet to be wholly overcome, it’s vital to know that by far the most robot-related accidents happen during the maintenance of robotic equipment.
Robot-Related Maintenance Incidences
Despite widespread belief that accidents to humans from robots occur during operation, the majority actually occur during maintenance and repair tasks. This amounts to two thirds of all such incidences.
Most of these happen during the bypass of safety features to access integral parts of the machine or the use of a safeguarding device that was inappropriate for use. The latest studies have completely debunked the theory that operational incidences are the most common, leading to a rethink on the importance of these essential maintenance tasks.
The problem is real and one that necessitates careful protocols to be put in place to prevent such happenings. While safety features, such as kill switches, impact sensors, motion prediction and visual awareness are all essential aspects of collaboration and co-habitation, maintenance tasks typically require human intervention that requires a bypass of such safety features. Careful consideration of non-negotiable SOPs must be put into place to prevent the risk of what could amount to catastrophic injury.
Protocols and Procedures for the Maintenance of Robots
While many incidences are minor, the potential for a devastating accident caused through either operational or carrying out maintenance tasks is very real. Robust training of all involved is essential and should be robot-specific. Near-miss reporting is vital and strict reporting as to all maintenance tasks must be in place. The integration of AI into robotic software will also be key as the technology evolves. However, by far the most important aspect to instil into those responsible for maintenance and operation is the understanding of a robots capabilities and limitations. This plays a crucial role to ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place to ensure the safety of all those involved at every stage of robotic engagement.
Robots are set to become ever-more important within all industries as technology advances. Perth-based equipment provider, Nexxis, is at the forefront of the revolution. They’ve blueprinted an innovative model that provides its customers with the ability to easily access the right solution for their needs and ensures the implementation of new technology into a business is seamless.