Posted on : Sunday 8th March 2020 03:15 AM
All over the United States, small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) are thinking about integrating industrial robots into their facilities. There is an ever-increasing awareness that increasingly flexible and affordable robotics systems can help present workers in a number of different ways, taking on repetitive tasks and freeing up staff for higher level work and increasing productivity overall.
To serve this soaring need, many robotics systems integrators have come online and promise complete packages to guide manufacturers from initial assessment to fully realized industrial automation. But deferring to these experts can feel a bit of imposing to manufacturers who rely on established processes they've developed internally.
So how can a manufacturer contemplating a first robot integration project take part fully so that the project is a success on their terms? Here are four suggestions to guide you during the process.
1. Be honest about the level of support you need.
You might have in-house robotics expertise or want to utilize your first robot integration project as the chance to learn. This is a superb idea however do not forget to consider how much time it will take. While every small manufacturer is different, one thing is common across the sector: Everyone is always strapped for bandwidth. Even if you have all the capabilities required to implement your own robotics cell, if you do not have the time to dedicate to the project, it will not be successful and could delay your ability to recoup your ROI. In which case, using a reputable systems integrator may be the best way to go.
2. Empower your existing experts.
Your existing processes work — and they work well because you have good people who own and administer them. Make sure these individuals are closely engaged with the implementation project so the new, automated process can build on the success of the current process, while improving on deficient areas. Small details like occasional process inconsistencies can throw a big wrench in an automation project. The team members in charge of the manual process will be able to help head those issues off at the pass.
3. Identify a robotics champion at your company.
In a manner, the work really begins after a robot implementation is complete — i.e., when your team starts to work with the new equipment. To be certain of rapid ROI and ongoing success, select an in-house champion who will work alongside the implementation team and learn the system. See to it, too, that this person has real cross-departmental authority and can broker engineering and production cooperation, which will be very important to success.
4. Keep it simple.
Introducing a robot or robots into your facility is a massive change. There are many variables to any project of any scale — e.g., appropriately converting a manual cell, training key personnel, and minimizing the impact on production. Start your robot implementation simply and take that principle to heart as you begin to evolve how you use robots in your facility.