My co-worker is a robot

In the Vénissieux engine plant in France, a new bold step has been taken in the evolution of man and machine interaction.

SINCE THE EARLY 1960s, robots have been a mainstay of the manufacturing industry. By working in hazardous environments and lifting heavy and dangerous objects, the machines have proven to be useful tools. But at the GTO Vénissieux engine plant, France, the robot is more than just a tool.

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Source: Mattias Andersson, Volvo Group University.

This is a collaborative robot which is completely different from a conventional robot. Due to new regulations and technology, this robot can work in the same station, at the same time, as the operator

– Mickael Nauleau, Manufacturing Engineer Project Manager

Whereas a traditional robot needs fences and safety distances to operate securely, the coactive robot is equipped with sensors that detect contact between man and machine, allowing it to work alongside an operator.

FOLLOWING THE VÉNISSIEUX engine plant vision “VNX 4.0”, the coactive robot is meant to increase productivity at the plant, as well as improving the work environment and ergonomics for the worker. Earlier this year, the robot was tested as a prototype at the Vénissieux Plant, where it performed tasks that can be harmful for a human operator. While the robot lifted heavy parts and tightened screws and bolts on the engines, the operator could focus on other assembly activities.

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Daisy. Källa: Mattias Andersson, Volvo Group University

We had three goals with the prototype test. The first was to confirm the efficiency in terms of technology, the second was to make a risk assessment and the third was to change the mindset for everyone working and interacting closely with robots. We wanted to show them that it’s perfectly safe to work alongside this robot

– Mickael Nauleau

BEFORE IMPLEMENTING the new generation of robots in the workplace, it was important to address employees’ fears and preconceptions. Is it safe to work next to a robot? After the initial trial period, the answer was unanimous: yes!

“When they told me that I would be working closely with a robot, I had some fears because of the change. But, thanks to my involvement in the project team, I’m now confident that this robot will make my work easier,” says Cédric Marcelat, Production Team Leader.

Quality Engineer Audrey Lehu concurs: “For an operator, it’s a huge benefit to work together with a robot that can do the repetitive and tough assignments for them. While the robot performs the menial tasks the operator can perform other operations and think about how to improve the processes,” she says.

The next step for this coactive robot is to be fully integrated in the plant. As the first implementation at Venissieux Plant appears promising, they are already thinking about adding more robots of the same type. And the operators have given the robot a warm welcome to the workplace family.

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The team behind the co-active robot, from left to right: Mickael Nauleau, Audrey Lehu, Patrick Marenthier and Cedric Marcelat

Right now, we are discussing which name we will give it .. We’re leaning towards Daisy

– Mickael Nauleau


Number of employees: 700

Engines produced annually:


Operations: Assembles 5- to 11-litre engines for all Volvo Group applications: trucks, coaches and buses, construction equipment, marine and industrial engines.

VNX 4.0

VNX 4.0 is the name of the target image for the Vénissieux Engine Plant. It encompasses the evolution towards the digitalization of the production system and the link with Industry 4.0.


Manufacturer: Universal Robot


1,300 mm


10 kg


29 kg


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This article is categorised as Intermediate  |  Published 2019-02-19  |  Authored by Sandra Mattsson