Game-Changing Considerations Prior To Robotics Implementation

In under two hours, your machinery operators can become robot programmers with Universal Robots Academy.

Within one hour of your new recruit arriving on site, you can unpack your cobot, mount it and program its first task. Capable of completing tasks from pick and place to screw driving and fastening, a cobot could be your first step into automation.

Robotics also offers the industrial breed. Delivering increased efficiencies, quality and production rates, many manufacturers are hastily implementing robotics solutions. 

It’s essential to consider four factors prior to a robotics implementation.

If you’re lucky or have the right automation partner, you’ll get it right.

If not, an implementation in haste may result in budget blow-outs, inefficiencies and unnecessary disruption to factory operations.

When seeking to implement an automation solution, you will need to evaluate which is better suited to your product, speed, human interaction requirements and factory floor space; a cobot or an industrial robot.

To start, here are some definitions:

Cobot: A type of robot designed to safely work alongside humans, as opposed to fully replacing them on the production line. Hence the name, collaborative robot. 

Industrial Robot: A programmable, mechanical device used in the place of a human operator to perform dangerous or repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy at speed.*

Here are the key distinctions between a cobot and an industrial robot:

  Cobot Industrial Robot
Human contact Safely works alongside humans in a reduced mode Requires safety guarding to protect human operators
Implementation Almost anyone can program a Universal Robots cobot Robotics programming expertise is typically required
Mobility & Deployment Mobile and may be re-deployed quickly Fixed and re-deployment is more challenging
Speed Completes tasks at a lower speed than an industrial robot Completes tasks faster than a cobot
Payload Offers a payload of up to 16 kgs Capable of lifting heavy objects and products
Footprint Smaller footprint. A larger machine footprint as guarding and a safe distance from human operators are required.

Consideration One: Product

The first consideration when implementing a robot is the product or components requiring handling. Cobots offer payloads between 3kgs and 16 kgs. By contrast, industrial robots can carry a far heavier load. Once you’ve established the required payload, it’s important to implement a solution that balances current and future business demands.

Future-proof your organisation by purchasing a cobot that can complete a range of processes across your facility with the addition of a new end effector (the end of the robotic arm that interacts with the manufacturing environment).

While both an industrial robot and a cobot can be reprogrammed to perform a range of tasks, an industrial robot requires a robotics specialist’s skills. With a cobot, your human operators can re-programme it in-house, following preliminary training.

Choosing a robot that is equipped to process your products can decrease cycle times and waste, while increasing efficiencies and delivering the return on investment you need.

Consideration Two: Speed

What cycle time do you need your line to achieve?

This is the next question to ask on your automation journey. While a cobot can complete a task at greater sustained speed than a human operator, its speed cannot match an industrial robot.  

A robotic implementation without the consideration of speed requirements can lead to budget blow-out, failure to achieve cycle times and an inability to meet market demand. These factors can all have a negative impact on your organisation’s revenue and profitability.

Cobots are primarily intended for human cooperation and accuracy, not speed.

Before you write off a cobot if you are looking for speed, consider the multiples required. For example, if you’re wanting to implement a cobot to complete packing and palletising operations, achieving your desired cycle time may be possible by deploying additional cobots.  

Consideration Three: People

The impact of automation on your people is a complex issue. For this reason, it’s often a  source of anxiety fueled by misinformation.

Robots do not have to replace your people. The first people-centric consideration is: What dangerous, repetitive or mundane tasks could be completed by a cobot? Start here by selecting a robot that can effectively complete these tasks. This enables your human operators to complete more complex and valuable work.

Another people-centric consideration is: Does the cobot need to work in close proximity with people? Cobots are the ideal automation technology for manufacturers looking to enhance the work of their human operators. For example, putting glue accurately in the same place every time at speed.

Consideration Four: Factory Floor Space

Organisations need to consider the available space, what equipment is required for production and how to configure the equipment on the factory floor.

Industrial robots are large and require guarding to protect human operators. For that reason, an industrial robot requires significantly larger square footage than a cobot.

If factory floor space is limited, it may be necessary to reconfigure aspects of the line prior to industrial robot integration.

By contrast, a cobot can often be integrated as a robotic cell to complete a specified task alongside or in the place of a human operator. As guarding is not required, a cobot can be a more cost-effective solution.

Prior to diving into a robotics implementation, consider the following:

  • Product and component processing
  • Speed
  • The level of people interaction
  • Factory floor space.

By understanding your organisation’s requirements, you can have confidence that your new recruit will reduce cycle times, increase efficiencies and decrease waste.