COLOGNE, Germany--(BUSINESS WIRE)--More than 100 years after the first cars rolled off Henry Ford’s pioneering assembly line, Ford Motor Company is breaking new ground in the way workers and robots are collaborating to manufacture vehicles.
New collaborative robots, also known as co-bots, are first being used to help workers fit shock absorbers to Fiesta cars, a task that requires pinpoint accuracy, strength, and a high level of dexterity. Employees work hand-in-hand with the robots to ensure a perfect fit every time.
The trial at Ford’s assembly plant in Cologne, Germany, is part of the company’s investigations into Industry 4.0, a term coined to describe a fourth industrial revolution, embracing automation, data exchange and manufacturing technologies. Ford sought feedback from more than 1,000 production line workers to identify tasks for which the new robots would best be suited.
“Robots are helping make tasks easier, safer and quicker, complementing our employees with abilities that open up unlimited worlds of production and design for new Ford models,” said Karl Anton, director, vehicle operations, Ford of Europe.
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.”
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is a global automotive and mobility company based in Dearborn, Mich. With about 201,000 employees and 67 plants worldwide, the company’s core business includes designing, manufacturing, marketing financing and servicing a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs and electrified vehicles, as well as Lincoln luxury vehicles. At the same time, Ford is aggressively pursuing emerging opportunities through Ford Smart Mobility, the company’s plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and data and analytics. For more information regarding Ford, its products worldwide or Ford Motor Credit Company, visit www.corporate.ford.com.
Ford of Europe is responsible for producing, selling and servicing Ford brand vehicles in 50 individual markets and employs approximately 53,000 employees at its wholly owned facilities and approximately 68,000 people when joint ventures and unconsolidated businesses are included. In addition to Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford Europe operations include Ford Customer Service Division and 24 manufacturing facilities (16 wholly owned or consolidated joint venture facilities and 8 unconsolidated joint venture facilities). The first Ford cars were shipped to Europe in 1903 – the same year Ford Motor Company was founded. European production started in 1911.