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Co-bots bring Industry 4.0 to Ford’s German plant

By Niranjan Mudholkar,

Added 18 July 2016

Are first being used to help workers fit shock absorbers to Fiesta cars

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Measuring a little more than 3 feet high, the new robots work hand-in-hand with the line workers at two work stations. Rather than manipulate a heavy shock absorber and installation tool, workers can now 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. The robot is a real help,” said Ngali Bongongo, a production worker at Ford’s Cologne plant.

Equipped with high-tech sensors, the co-bots stop immediately if they detect an arm or even a finger in their path, ensuring worker safety. Similar technology also is used in the pharmaceutical and electronics industries. Developed over two years, the robot program was carried out in close partnership with German robot manufacturer, KUKA Roboter GmbH.

Ford is now reviewing further use of collaborative robots that can be programmed to perform tasks ranging from shaking “hands” to making a coffee.

“We are proud to show the capabilities of our new generation of sensitive robots that are supporting and collaborating with Ford workers by carrying out ergonomically difficult and technically challenging tasks,” said Klaus Link, key account manager, Ford, KUKA Roboter GmbH. “As part of our close partnership with Ford and based on the feedback from employees, we are looking forward to further challenges.”
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