Imagine yourself having a colleague that is not human but rather a robot. It is most likely not an impossible picture to have, considering the fact that most industries nowadays have AI (Artificial Intelligence) working for them. From self-serving cashiers at supermarkets to computerized assistants at train stations, the truth is the future is here. We have already started interacting with these ‘digital colleagues’ in different capacities.
However, there are instances where robots even operate like their human counterparts. For example, you will find robots serving you fresh coffee in cafes located in Tokyo, Japan. Moreover, you will also encounter them giving you a ticket on the Milton Keynes roads.
Are robots a new thing in manufacturing?
The IFR (International Federation of Robotics) released a report highlighting the growth of robotic use globally. This is, however, no surprise because PwC had started that about 59% of manufacturers worldwide are using robots in one way or the other.
Even so, the egression of technologies like RPA (Robotic Processing Automation) gives users a chance to propel their transformation in their respective industries even further. It is also an opportunity to improve productivity for those in the manufacturing sector.
How robots are now used in manufacturing
Collaborative robots have been seen working alongside human workers. For example, the Tesla Gigafactory has been termed as being the most advanced of all factories. In this factory, you’ll see robots navigating AIVs (Autonomous Indoor Vehicles) freely. They navigate without the help of magnets or beacons as guides. These robots’ fundamental responsibility is to move goods between the various workstations.
Those who have manufacturing with robots have already reported increased ROI. An example of such a company is Cornell Dubilier, which uses robots to help inspect capacitor installations. As a result, the labeling process was speedy and doubled to 250 parts/hr from 125 parts/hr. There was also a reduction in time wastage in the supply chain. This means that all human workers were able to dedicate their time to other tasks that required more thought and creativity.
There is also the emergence of RPA having different uses in multiple sectors like Financial Services. Unlike physical robots, RPAs are “behind the scene” robots. They replicate the mind of a human being, thereby transforming business processes and accelerating operations. This technology can also be considered to be an employee in different parts of a supply chain. This is because it can work between the back office and IT systems carrying out all repetitive tasks. Some of the repetitive tasks include processing purchase management orders and invoices at higher speeds.
Making informed automation decisions
The current market for robots is growing at a rapid rate. So, with so many options currently available to you, how does a company settle on the best?
It is very easy to get carried away and be overwhelmed with the many robots available. However, this approach will result in either purchase of a costly idea or not purchasing at all.
If you want a successful automation strategy, you will have to make decisions on various levels. You will need to decide which activities your company needs automated.
What’s more, you’ll have to decide the automation level you need to use and the technologies your company will adopt. When going through each of these steps, you need to ensure that the plan also meets these criteria:
- Aligning your operations and business strategy with the automation strategy
As it has been seen from other industries, using automation will achieve the following objectives: increased flexibility, improved quality, reduced costs, and worker safety. When done well. You may also experience an overall improvement in the company’s operations. Remember, the correct balance for an organization depends on its business goals and operation strategy.
- Have clear problem articulation before starting any automation program
This should also include reasons as to why you think automation is the correct solution. Each project should highlight the areas where automation will provide improvement. It should also show how these improvements align with the organization’s overall strategy.
- Highlight the RoI (Return on Investment)
Companies, more so, large ones, should take caution to avoid overspending, over-complicating, and over-specifying when it comes to automation investments. You will need to have a deep understanding of that company’s manufacturing systems and processes. That way, you’ll be able to select the right solution to meet future and current needs.
Four types of robots all manufacturers should know of
If you visit any manufacturing company that also uses automation, the chances are that you will encounter either of the following robots:
- Articulated robots: These are classified by the number of axes or rotation points they have, the 6-axis being the most common. You could, however, also come across the 7-axis and 4-axis units. They are used in dispensing, material removal, inspection, palletizing, packaging, welding, assembly, machine tending, and pick & place operations.
- SCARA (Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm) robots are cost-effective robots mainly used for operations such as transferring parts to conveyors. These robots are perfect for vertical assembly operations. They are used in dispensing, packaging, inspection, assembly, and pick & place operations.
- Delta robots: These robots have a reach that’s defined by the working range diameter. They are perfect for inspection, pick & place, and assembly operations.
- Cartesian robots: These robots are made of over three linear actuators that have been assembled to fit a specific application. They usually are positioned over a workplace, and this means they maximize on floor space. They are used in inspection, assembly, dispensing, and pick & place operations.
Automation systems are now more intelligent and flexible. They also adapt to their behavior automatically, thereby minimizing the cost per unit and maximizing output.
Whether you are hiring the services of a respected systems integrator or plan to tackle automation implementation yourself, knowing what to expect and look for is critical—delving deeper into the different uses of the robots and where each will help you make informed decisions.