Pick and Place Robots: An Advantageous Alternative for Repetitive Tasks 

Pick and place robots provide an extremely efficient alternative to human labor for simple, repetitive physical tasks and those that take place in potentially dangerous locations. Because they tend to provide a relatively fast return on investment and offer many benefits, pick and place robots can help manufacturers boost their output, increase their safety and improve consistency and quality in a cost-effective way. 

What is a Pick and Place Robot? 

Available in several different robot types, including robotic arms, cartesian, delta, fast pick and collaborative, pick and place robots do exactly what their name implies – they pick up parts or items and place them in other locations. Typically mounted on a stand located in the workspace from where the robot can reach all the required bins and areas, pick and place robots feature high speeds and advanced vision systems that allow them to quickly and efficiently identify, pick up and move parts or objects to a new spot. They can be equipped with a variety of end-of-arm tooling, allowing them to be used in a range of applications, including: 

  • Assembly. Pick and place robots pick up incoming parts from a conveyor, place them on another part or into a kit and then transport the complete piece to the next assembly location. 
  • Inspection. In inspection applications, pick and place robots equipped with vision systems can pick up objects or parts, detect defects and remove them from the line and place them into a designated area. 
  • Bin picking. Here, pick and place robots grab parts or items from bins and relocate them to another location to be assembled, packed or placed in a kit. If equipped with a vision system, pick and place robots can differentiate color, shape and size from a single bin of mixed parts in bin picking applications. 
  • Packaging. In packaging operations, pick and place robots select items from a conveyor belt or designated area and place them into a packaging container, box or bag. 

Why Do I Need a Robot for Such Simple Tasks? 

Whether simple or complex, using human workers in these types of jobs may not be profitable for manufacturers who currently face tight budgets and labor shortages. Pick and place tasks are often monotonous, which leads to boredom in human workers whose skills and capacity for logical thinking can and should be applied elsewhere in the facility where it provides greater value and benefit to the organization. In addition, robots are capable of much higher speeds than humans, so will complete these simple tasks with greater efficiency, often eliminating bottlenecks and increasing throughput. 

In addition, pick and place tasks tend to include repetitive motions, such as bending and twisting or lifting of heavy objects, which can result fatigue and injury in human employees – ultimately leading to frequent breaks, shift changes and/or costly medical expenses and labor shortages when workers are out on sick leave. 

What Advantages Can I Achieve with Pick and Place Robots? 

Fortunately, pick and place robots will never grow bored, become tired, slow down or be injured in these applications. As a matter of fact, their high speed, accuracy and consistency amount to a wealth of benefits for manufacturers, including: 

Speed of operationPick and place robots are able to lift and move significantly more objects over a shorter period of time than human workers. If speed is of the essence in a facility, some newer pick and place robots are built specifically for speed and can move items at extreme rates.
High productivityThanks to high operating speeds, users of pick and place robots are able to eliminate bottlenecks and increase production rates and throughput. The ability to perform without breaks and shift changes and without becoming fatigued or bored as human workers tend to do allows even more productivity.
Consistent operationBecause pick and place robots are programmed to do a repetitive job in the same way, each time, they provide a consistent operation and do so without the opportunity for human error. In addition, while human workers are likely to drop products as they work, pick and place robots are not, reducing scrap and waste. The ability to consistently perform the task without mistakes allows for the production of higher quality parts and/or products, as well as the reduction of expenses related to scrap, waste and re-work caused by human error. 
Enhanced quality controlWhen pick and place robots are equipped with vision systems, they can be applied in inspection applications and are more adept at catching minor defects than humans are. This will also lead to gains in product quality.
Safer workspacesUsing pick and place robots allows for a safer workspace because it eliminates the repetitive motion injuries, back injuries or crushing injuries (if objects being reached for fall) that plague human workers who perform repetitive lifting and twisting motions to accomplish the same tasks. In addition, if the workspace is in a dirty, dusty, noisy or hazardous area, it is safer for a robot to perform required tasks than a human worker. 
FlexibilityModern pick and place robots can be outfitted with a multitude of different end-of-arm tooling options, allowing them to handle a variety of products. In addition, simplified programming means it’s possible to reprogram a pick and place robot for use on other tasks or in other areas of the facility. 
Reduced contaminationIf used in food, pharmaceutical, electronics or medical device manufacturing where contamination can be introduced by human workers handling sensitive or regulated products, the use of a pick and place robot will reduce the likelihood of contamination, which will help reduce scrap and waste and possible recalls or other costly contamination issues. 

The speed and level of consistency provided by pick and place robots performing assembly, inspection, bin picking and packaging applications can provide many benefits.  If you’re a manufacturer looking for ways to improve safety, quality, and reduce costs while being asked to increase production during a worker shortage, pick and place robots may be a solution. For more information on how pick and place robots can enhance your factory, please contact JHFOSTER.