Shiseido tests humanoid robots for cosmetics production

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

Robots in cosmetics
In a revolutionary move and a cosmetics industry first, the leading Japanese heavyweight puts humanoid robots front and centre of its assembly lines.

First of its kind

Shiseido is trialling the partnership in a bid to create a new age of cosmetics manufacturing through “collaboration of humans and robots”.

The multinational giant has introduced a pilot programme that deploys industrial humanoid robots on its assembly lines. This dual approach will see both humans and robots create make up products at its Kakegawa factory in Shizuoka, Japan.

Launched in March 2017, Shiseido’s production strategy represents the first time a robotic workforce has been tested in the beauty arena.   

Pilot testing

As part of the pilot programme in the Kakegawa factory, one human worker and two humanoid robots will pair up on the assembly lines. Together, they will build multiple parts of varied shapes and materials to present finished products to the market.

Shiseido commented that one of the key benefits of utilising a humanoid robot is that they are capable of completing sophisticated deliverables that are hard for conventional machines and even existing industrial robots to successfully automate.

Where the human worker concentrates on the product quality through close inspection of minor product defects, the humanoid robot helps to maximise productivity and efficiency through saving time at the assembly line.

Societal factors

This collaboration has been established to enable Shiseido to “safeguard its future by providing against changes in the social environment such as declining workforce”,​ the company announced in a recent press release.

By developing a new form of manufacturing, Shiseido can set a precedent for other cosmetics companies within the beauty and personal care industry to proactively and effectively respond to market disruptions efficiently.

Equally, as Japan’s workforce shrinks, worries relating to the industry's ability to maintain these high levels of inspection are on the rise. As such, these concerns open up opportunities for industrial robots to evolve traditional human-based manufacturing.

Modern make up manufacturing

Shiseido highlighted that in today’s cosmetics productions, brands are having to support a new manufacturing system that looks after high-mix-low-volume production to meet the changing needs of consumers, particularly in the make up and colour cosmetics sector.

With a multitude of materials and components, coupled with packaging and labelling activities, make up requires an intuitive manufacturing process.

Make up production needs to respond sufficiently to the high levels of quality required for sophisticated cosmetics production and the necessary in-process inspection that relies on irreplaceable human sensibilities.

This new approach to manufacturing and production can help to ensure that human capabilities that focus on tackle management, inspection and assessment duties are fully fulfilled.

Teaming up

In partnership with robot system developers, Glory, Shiseido will pursue these concepts and build upon its pilot programme through the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry- led project, “FY2016 Demonstration Project for the Introduction of Robots”.

Looking ahead, Shiseido plans to invest in and apply AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology to help robots take part in high-dimensional and complex operations.

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