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Need & Nice to Knows about Automation

1. Small batches in a fast and flexible way

The first step on the journey to automation does not have to be your highest-volume or most costly process. Collaborative automation is designed for easy implementation, even for those who are not robotics experts.

With collaborative robot applications, it is possible to produce small batches in a fast and flexible way, making the production much more efficient and the business more competitive. The robots are easy to deploy, and the risk is minimal because of the low cost. Also, robots make it easier to recruit new employees and increase employees’ motivation because they are easy to work with.
The robots are easy to deploy, and the risk is minimal because of the low cost. Also, robots make it easier to recruit new employees and increase employees’ motivation because they are easy to work with.

2. Start with an easy project

It is always a good idea to start with an easy project with quick gains, for example a simple pick and place solution, so you get a good start. When you have chosen the right project, a good partner can help you deciding if you need a “do it yourself” integration where you deploy the application or if the partner has to take care of the deployment.

3. Safety

Cobots are designed to be safely deployed in close proximity to humans, yet some applications still present opportunities for injury. For example, a cobot operating a welding torch or moving heavy objects need to be managed appropriately. A risk assessment must always be carried out that considers all elements of the application, including the end-of-arm tooling and other equipment in the workspace.

4. Ease of use & programming

Ease of programming is already a key benefit of cobots but this can be further enhanced with the selection of the right robot tool (EoAT) at the end of the robot arm. Ideally, look for a tool that can easily be programmed from directly within the robot’s teach pendant, ensuring employees only need to learn one single user interface. Equally, prioritise plug-and-produce options that come with limited cables and connections to manage. For example, electric grippers eliminate the need to manage air lines or clear space for pumps.

5. Flexibility for redeployment

For companies with changeable product lines, seasonal demands or multiple processes that need automating, redeploying the cobot to where it is needed most that day is a great way of maximising its value. Multiple programs can be saved to a cobot’s teach pendant. Therefore, with collaborative robot tools it is possible to switch between applications in minutes simply by swapping the tool(s) at the end of the robot arm and selecting the right program. A line of collaborative tooling products that works seamlessly together has a dramatic impact on long-term ease-of-use and flexibility, as tools can easily be moved between multiple robots and processes with no additional training. It is also worth considering the long-term value of new capabilities that can be added such as force/torque sensing on a finger gripper. This is ideal for sensitive or precision applications where the cobots have an advantage even over a human. Force/torque capabilities also work well in situations where a cobot hands off a part to a human for a secondary operation, as it senses the human worker’s grasp and automatically releases it, simplifying workflow.

6. Cost-efficacy

Collaborative automation often pays for itself within 7-12 months but is also a process that can be significantly further optimised and refined over time by expanding the line of collaborative tools for specific applications. For example, swapping out a single gripper to a dual-finger gripper can maximise cycle time, yet requires no additional new training for workers who are already familiar with the cobot to operate.

7. Employees

Cobots won’t take away people’s jobs as they inherently require the presence of a human to oversee and work alongside them. A collaborative robot is not a threat to the employee’s livelihood, it is an indispensable ally, an invaluable aid able to complement their skills and ease their workload. Cobots can carry out low-value tasks which don’t require a human’s intellectual input, thereby freeing up workers to focus on more interesting activities. With machines taking care of what is repetitive, tedious jobs, employees finally have time to dedicate to organisation, strategy, management – to think of innovative ways to leverage technology to improve processes. Additionally, by being juxtaposed to robots, workers are presented with the opportunity of learning new, useful skills and evolve from, for example, machine operators to robot programmers. This has the potential to hugely enhance the employees’ job satisfaction. 

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Which application to automate first, which robot arm to implement, which tool(s) to use? - the questions are many.
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