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Knowing the Right Fit for Robotic Automation

Knowing the Right Fit for Robotic Automation

Posted: 3/27/2024 3:13:38 PM by Brandon Bollig
Topics: ROI, Tips and Tools

Once implemented to only complement large-scale production for automotive manufacturing, high-performance robots are now being integrated into job shops and factories across diverse industries, completing an array of dull, dirty, dangerous and disliked tasks. So much so, that robot orders by non-automotive companies nearly equaled those of automotive businesses over the last year1.

Design improvements for capability and flexibility, as well as advancements for system tools and processes, are fueling this “robolution,” enabling a wider user group to utilize robotic automation – with new entrants from the consumer goods, electronics, food and beverage, life sciences, pharmaceuticals, and plastics industries leading the way.

From increased worker safety, part throughput, product quality and operational flexibility, to reduced costs and labor turnover, the reasons for robot implementation are varied and specific to each organization’s requirements. That said, here are some questions for decision makers to consider when contemplating and justifying a robot purchase:

How do I know if robotic automation is right for my operation?

This overriding question can be answered by asking a series of sub-questions. The answers cultivated can then be used to help determine whether reliable and efficient robots are a good fit for your operations. Key questions include:

Can the task be automated?
Once the problem or bottleneck has been identified, this is typically the first question asked. Often, a quick internet search can reveal whether the specific issue in question has a viable solution. However, if personal research still leads to uncertainty, an experienced supplier or integrator should be able to guide decision makers down the right path. Moreover, a professional will be able to complete a thorough site visit that can provide more clarity to what a particular operation may need.

That said, first-time robot users often consider simple handling tasks for palletizing or pick and place. Likewise, shop settings implement robots to help with common screwdriving or welding applications. Finishing jobs (i.e., buffing, cutting, deburring, grinding, polishing, sanding or routing) and quality inspections are also tasks new entrants seek to automate.

Is labor difficult to find?
If finding workers to complete a given task is challenging, you’re not alone. 70% of leaders attest that their workforce is under-skilled, hindering production and growth2. As a result, robotic automation is being designed to help fill common gaps. From welding to loading and picking and packing, a variety of mundane and hazardous tasks are being automated to help manufacturers maintain on-time delivery and keep competitive.

Does the current workplace need improvement? Production bottlenecks and poor workflow can be costly, hindering the bottom line. Streamlined robots and compact workcells, paired with innovative tools, can help improve inefficiencies, providing transformative benefits. Intelligent machine hardware (i.e., vision-guided robots, LiDARs, micro-location devices, torque sensors, etc.) is especially helpful, enabling the completion of both simple and complex tasks. Moreover, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) is allowing learning data from simulation to expertly train a robot and enhance workflow without production disruption, addressing the simulation-to-reality (Sim2Real) gap.

Is the market for this product highly competitive? If dollars (or even pennies for that matter) can be saved per part via automation, then most likely, automation is well worth the investment. Improvements in speed, functionality and safety, along with more cost-effective options, are making the transition to robotics more advantageous than ever. This is prompting nearly 70% of manufacturers to accelerate their automation plans3, and it is positioning them to reduce total production costs – as seen with over 60% of robot installations4.

Is the payback time achievable? Understanding the potential financial gains a robot or system can provide over a target payback period is extremely helpful to the justification process. Ranging from 18 months (for most solutions) to 5 years (for more complicated processes), a general payback period can often be determined via a payback calculator. To further accommodate varying manufacturing needs, robotic automation can manifest via capital investment or leasing equipment. Keep in mind, near immediate payback is often seen on leased equipment, but greater long-term profit is acquired with capital investments.

If, “yes,” is the consensus to any of these questions, contact a robot supplier or integrator to continue the conversation. This can go a long way to setting your operations up for success.

Learn more! Watch part of Brandon’s initial presentation at a recent partner event for Mechatronics Solutions.

1 A3 Robotics - 4Q 2023 Deluxe Press Release, Association for Advancing Automation, 2024
2 The State of the Workforce Skills Gap 2024, Springboard, 2024
3 Essential Automation in Manufacturing Industry Statistics in 2024, Global Commerce Media GmbH, 2024
4 Do Robots Really Pay for Themselves, Aerospace Manufacturing and Design, 2023

Brandon Bollig is a Regional Sales Manager

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