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Robots as colleagues
Interview with Thomas Ebenhöch, Site and Plant Manager, Continental Regensburg
DIALOG: Mr. Ebenhöch, people at Cont inental’s plant in Regensburg form teams with “collaborative robots”. How do they differ from conventional robots?
TE: Our collaborative robots can be deployed flexibly and can work hand in hand with humans – although they do not need to. Many of these lightweight robots can be programmed and “taught” on site by trained employees. This means that the employee shows the robot a movement once, i.e. guides the robot arm, and the robot remembers the movement, meaning that it can perform it reliably again and again. Moreover, our collaborative robots are able to work conveniently, quickly and precisely. Inherent errors are avoided and processes executed extremely dependably. This, in turn, results in quality improvements and cost savings.
DIALOG: To what extent do your robotic colleagues improve everyday work?
TE: In direct interaction, a collaborative robot can perform monotonous or physically demanding parts of the work process and therefore make the work process more ergonomic for humans. This is an important aspect considering demographic change and the higher age of retirement. The elimination of less demanding activities that can be easily automated and the reduction of physically demanding work means that we focus more on our colleagues’ technical skills. They are offered the chance to qualify appropriately, which is something that definitely enhances their job descriptions. This also enables us to ensure that expertise continues to develop.
DIALOG: Many companies are still engaged in networking their production robots within the smar t factory or their own network of plants. What challenges do you see in networking robots with external elements of the supply chain in future?
TE: Networking within the factory of course only offers limited potential. In order to be able to really exploit the full potential it is absolutely essential to network along the entire supply chain. However, this transparent communication between customers and suppliers requires different business models. At the same time, technological change goes hand in hand with cultural change – besides customers and suppliers, employees also need to be involved at an early stage and to be prepared appropriately.
Continental develops intelligent technologies for transporting people and their goods. As a reliable partner, the international automotive supplier, tire manufacturer, and industrial partner provides sustainable, safe, comfortable, individual, and affordable solutions. In 2015, the corporation generated preliminary sales of approximately €39.2 billion with its fi ve divisions, Chassis & Safety, Interior, Powertrain, Tires, and ContiTech. Continental employs more than 208,000 people in 53 countries.