A Danish manufacturer of small, flexible industrial robot arms, Universal Robots (UR), is helping American educational institutions to train students how to operate a new generation of robots: the so-called collaborative robots (cobots).
Unlike classic industry robots, which are often bolted in a cage, cobots can be easily moved around and their arms are designed to mimic the range of motion of a human arm.
Many metal industry companies in the United States have moved their production elsewhere due to the lack of skilled workers able to operate robots.
More are likely to follow if the gap is not closed, fears Ritch Ramsey, the co-ordinator for robot training at the Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Education Collaboration (RAMTEC) in Ohio – the largest robot centre in the US.
“Right now, there are 60,000 unfilled positions in the industry in Ohio alone,” Ramsey told the confederation of Danish industry, Dansk Industri.
“We need to train both young people and unskilled workers in coding and operating robots, while also helping companies to introduce more robots that can take over the most monotonous and repetitive tasks.”
Online academy for everyone
According to the Economic Council of the Labour Movement, the Danish iron and metal industry will lack around 30,000 skilled workers in 2025, while the US will lack 2 million skilled workers by 2020.
Universal Robots co-operates with RAMTEC to ameliorate the situation, and the company has also recently launched a free online ‘Universal Robot Academy’, which makes it possible for anyone to learn to operate a robot in just 87 minutes.
The UR Academy is available in six languages and includes simulators.
“I want to make robots easily accessible for small and medium-sized businesses, which make up the majority around the world,” explained Esben Østergaard, the founder of Universal Robots.
“Moreover, it is my ambition to lower ‘robot analphabetism’ by increasing everyone’s knowledge of robots.”
Educating kids in Denmark
Østergaard has recently donated 35,000 kroner to the Technology School in Odense, where children as young as 10 can take afternoon and evening robot classes.
Last year, his company supported Denmark’s first robot talent team for young people aged 15-20 with 500,000 kroner so they could participate in the first Robotics Championship in the United States.
Universal Robots was founded in 2005 and today employs about 350 people globally.
The company has 2,000 distributors in around 50 countries, and in 2015 it made 418 million kroner in revenue.