PSA is running the rule across its supply processes - including cobots - following the Push to Pass drive

PSA is running the rule across its supply processes - including cobots - following the 'Push to Pass' drive

PSA Groupe says its drive to examine new technology such as cobots has left its unions largely neutral.

While robotisation has clearly been a fact of life for decades, increasing use of so-called cobots will see French labour bodies' sights trained on any future implication for jobs and working conditions.

For the moment at least, cobots remain robotic aids, designed not to replace humans, but provide help for some of the more repetitive tasks. Some cobots have even been pictured featuring eyes to lend them a more human aspect.

Peugeot-Citroen's evaluation of cobots as well as new technology such as 3D printing, come on the back of its recent launch of the hugely ambitious 'Push to Pass' programme, which will see new products launched across its three Group brands.

Some 26 passenger cars and eight light commercial vehicles, including a 1t pick-up truck will come on stream, while a vast plug-in hybrid and EV focus is concentrating the automaker's mind on how to squeeze the most from its supply chain processes.

"On robots, there is neither worry nor enthusiasm," [from unions] PSA director, supply chain and manufacturing, Yann Vincent told just-auto at the manufacturer's headquarters on Paris' Avenue de la Grande Armee.

"We have a medium-term, three-year vision, which is an 'excellent factory,' which integrates structural elements of different processes and elements of organisation in the way we work. Whether that is [at] PSA or practices that we have been able to observe with competitors.

"No factories are the same, but we are asking them to attain this target. For example, at Sevelnord [Northern France], we are going to change the assembly, we are going to create a new [one] to reduce costs."

The supply chain director focused on cobots as an opportunity for automakers to improve safety where robots and humans found themselves in proximity.

"When you robotise you have to protect the man working next to robots – it is very constraining," said Vincent. "Cobots in the way we see them – when we need more cars we can have more cobots. A cobot can be put in in half a day. We are testing at Rennes [for example] the acceptability by manufacturing of the cobot.

"What we give today to the cobots are the more difficult tasks, which can be [hard] for the operator."

The supply chief conceded there were more "blurred" areas of cobotisation, where automakers would use a "public-private" system of working in its factories, with external start-ups being brought in for example.

PSA's new plan envisages revenue growth of 10% by 2018, compared to 2015 and an additional 15% increase by 2021.