Japanese cosmetics firm Shiseido has deployed industrial humanoid robots on the assembly lines of makeup products at its Kakegawa factory. This pilot program is a cosmetics industry first, says the company.

Humans and robots collaboration

Since mid-March 2017, one human worker and two humanoid robots are working together to assemble various parts of varied shapes and materials, delivering finished make-up products. Shiseido chose to test the use of robots on this kind of products because the assembly process of colour cosmetics is usually more complex and more difficult to automatize with conventional machines and existing industrial robots. The filling lines of skin-care jars or perfume bottles are already widely automated.

At Kakegawa, two humanoid robots cover the assembly of the products while a human worker focuses on the inspection of minor defects, such as scratches, assuring the quality of products. “In-process inspection, which relies on human’s sensibilities, cannot be replaced with machines,” highlights the company.

Shrinking workforce

According to Shiseido, the reasons behind the deployment of these humanoid robots are both social and economic. With Japan having one of the world’s lowest birth rate, the company anticipates the decline of available workforce in the country.

Furthermore, Shiseido considers that robots will help to improve the productivity and flexibility of its operations. “In the cosmetics industry, and for makeup products in particular, companies are increasingly required to promote a new manufacturing system that effectively manages high-mix low-volume production to address the ever-diversifying needs of consumers.

Shiseido’s project is part of a broader initiative led by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, in a partnership with Glory Ltd., a leader in robot system development, and aiming at adapting the Japanese manufacturing system to the future demographic situation.

Going forward, Shiseido aims to further advance innovation in technology, enabling robots to team up on more complex operations by applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.