Robots working in Ford assembly plant

Fiesta owners soon could be driving cars partly put together by robots.

Ford had developed and is trialing new collaborative robots – or co-bots – to work alongside employees to fit shock absorbers to Fiesta, a task that requires accuracy, strength and dexterity.

Currently being tested at Ford’s assembly plant in Cologne, Germany, the co-bots form part of Ford’s investigations into Industry 4.0 – the 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.

Karl Anton, director vehicle operations, Ford of Europe, said, ‘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.’

Measuring a metre high, the 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.

Ngali Bongongo, a production worker at Ford’s Cologne plant, said, ‘Working overhead with heavy air-powered tools is a tough job that requires strength, stamina, and accuracy. The robot is a real help.’

Ford is now looking at further use of collaborative robots that can be programmed to perform specific tasks – even making a coffee.