Robots – once the subjects of science fiction books, movies and TV programs – are now real-life partners involved in our daily lives in many ways.
Robotic applications are cropping up everywhere to replace an assortment of jobs that
have been performed by humans for decades. Often times, they’re designed to perform a very specific task, allowing them to deliver enhanced productivity, reduced operating costs and decreased error rates. They can be found in various locations and industries, completing repetitive tasks such as assembling orders in a warehouse, harvesting crops on a farm and even preparing meals at a fast-food restaurant.
Although they are replacing humans in certain factory functions and protecting workers from performing hazardous tasks, robots can also be found working side-by-side with people. These collaborative robots, known as “cobots,” are programmed to learn multiple tasks to assist humans, most often on an assembly line, assembling a part or machine.
Countless benefits, but breakdowns can lead to business loss
While the benefits are considerable, robotics is not a perfect science and the potential exists for a malfunction that could lead to business loss. It’s important that businesses be aware of the hazards and exposures robotics present, such as human error during programming, mechanical failure, control system error, improper installation or unauthorized access into a safeguarded area.
Because robots are comprised of mechanical and electronic components, their systems can be susceptible to equipment breakdown. Robots are often directed by a computer-controlled automated system and are constructed using mechanical elements. The moving parts of a robot can include motorized wheels and pivot-jointed segments that use electric motors and solenoids as actuators; some have a hydraulic system, and some use a pneumatic system. Most robots either have a battery or electrical plug for their power source. Hydraulic robots have a pump to pressurize hydraulic fluid, and pneumatic robots employ an air compressor or compressed air tanks.A covered equipment breakdown loss may occur due to damage caused by electrical, mechanical or pressure systems breakdowns. Examples of each equipment breakdown peril could include:
- An electrical breakdown, which may be caused by a power surge;
- A mechanical breakdown of gears or other moving parts; or
- A pressure systems breakdown caused by excessive pressure in a system, which leads to overheating or explosion.
According to John Hudock, Mutual Boiler Re engineering exposure analyst, “Advance preparation is the key to avoiding a major loss when an industrial robot breaks down. Businesses need to think ahead to determine how robotics fit into the overall production process and what needs to be done when a breakdown occurs. Knowing who to call for parts or repairs and having a backup plan for continuing operations can help minimize down time and preserve business income.”
“Robotics are playing a larger role in the manufacturing plant, so it takes some forethought to figure out what critical factors exist within a plant and proactively establish a plan,” advised John.
The expanding role of robots
The trend of robotics usage in manufacturing continues. Factories that are 100 percent automated and require no human presence, sometimes called “lights-off” or “lights-out” facilities, are becoming more popular. In Japan, there is even a company that is using robots to build robots.
- The global service robotics market, valued at US$10.36 billion in 2017, is expected to reach US$28.65 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 17.9 percent between 2018-2023.
- The global industrial robotics market, valued at USD 41.86 billion in 2017, is expected to reach USD 73.51 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 9.84 percent between 2018-2023.
Global growth is being driven in several areas, including the healthcare industry, where robotic devices are increasingly used in surgery and patient monitoring, and by the highly automated car manufacturing sector. In addition, robots are making forays into other industries such as electronics, metal, machinery, rubber, plastics, food and beverage.