Do you already have a Universal Robot collaborative robot on your plant floor? That is great! Are you already seeing a return on your investment?
As you may already know, collaborative robots are becoming more common in the manufacturing industry. Every day, we hear about success stories of companies who decided to invest and integrate their first cobot cell.
Source: Universal Robots
If this is the case for your company, you might already be convinced of the benefits of collaborative robots. You may even be looking to add more to your plant floor!
Collaborative robots have proven their benefits in many industries and in many applications. But, when looking to add more cobots to your plant floor, there are a few elements to consider BEFORE buying your next robot.
Before Buying Your Next Collaborative Robot
Make Sure Your First Project Is Fail-Proof
Trust me. You don’t want to be pitching your next cobot project while having your first robotic cell being down or having issues. So, we recommend that you iterate your first cell with a continuous improvement mindset. Then, you can take some time to monitor the cell performance and document any error you are getting.
In lean manufacturing practices, those are error-proofing techniques. They help prevent, correct or draw attention to errors happening on the production line. By monitoring the cell during a few cycles, you’ll be able to identify the problems to error-proof. Then, either through programming or by adding extra sensors, you’ll be able to fix those.
Use Knowledge and Expertise From the Previous Project
You already have the experience of planning and executing your first cobot project, so why not use it! As you are implementing your first project (and all others), we recommended that you document the process. This way, as you invest in more robotic cells, you’ll be able to build on your previous experience and knowledge even if your team is changing or growing. Of course, this won’t make your new project completely fail-proof. But the probability of success will be higher due to the knowledge that you already have.
Standardize Your Deployment Process and Technologies Used
In the same line of thought of building on your previous experiences, you can also standardize the equipment used. With your first project, you learned about how those pieces of equipment work. You already have experience in programming them and putting them in production. If your goal is to scale the robotic cells in your factory, standardization will translate into your return on investment.
Have a Strategic Plan For Scaling
If you see the potential of many robotic cells in your factory, we recommend that you have a strategic plan in hand. This plan should present how to streamline your deployment process. In addition, it should include the improvement targets on the production line and the metrics to improve. Such a plan should then start with defining the company’s long-term goals towards automation.
Develop the Right Team and Robotic Skills
If only one employee holds the key to your robotic projects, your business is at risk! We have seen this happen where there was only one champion owning the robotics in a company. When that champion decided to quit, the company was back to day 0. Just like documenting is important, making sure to share the knowledge internally is also.
You might be thinking about hiring new employees to build this team, and that is an option. By using technologies like Universal Robots cobots, you can train the employees that you already have. They can quickly learn this new technology because of its ease of use. The main quality you are looking for is someone with the willingness to learn and knowledge of your processes. This is how you can avoid facing the labor shortage again but for robotic skilled workers.
What Should Your Next Collaborative Robot Application Be?
For your next automation project, you have two choices to consider:
- You can duplicate your existing cobot cell. It is already working and delivering encouraging results, so why not simply copy-paste it.
- The alternative would be to look for new collaborative robot applications within your operations.
Either way, you want to keep your projects simple. You might already know that starting with a simple application is the key to success at first. As you are solving a simple application, you are learning the trade and developing your knowledge. You’ll then be able to tackle more complex applications afterward.
But as you are looking at your second and third projects, keep that simplicity mindset. Even if it is not the targeted bottleneck you want to solve, smaller and simpler projects will compound to a greater and faster ROI for your company.
With this mindset, and if you have the possibility, duplicating your existing cell can be a winner for your production.
If duplication is not possible or not preferable, you can always look at other applications on your plant floor. Every day new technologies are being developed to help collaborative robots to do more applications. We recommend using specialists with relevant expertise and experience in robotics and automation to have a look at your production line. This can open your eyes to new possible applications that you didn’t notice or thought possible to automate.
At Olympus Controls, we are an engineering services company specializing in integrating motion control, machine vision, and robotic technologies. We help our clients develop innovative and robust solutions and collaborate with them to take their machine automation solutions from concept to reality. Bringing thousands of unique automation projects to market has helped us develop an extensive range of technology and industry‐process knowledge.