The Emergence of Robotics in Manufacturing

The increasing prominence of robotics in manufacturing is due to the reduction of costs and their ever-improving functionality. As a result, robotics is becoming more accessible and increasingly viable for small manufacturers. In June 2015, the Wall Street Journal stated the cost reductions from the use of robotics may even enable the United States and other high wage earning countries to once again return to manufacturing greatness

Historically, robots worked in automobile manufacturing plants performing jobs that were dangerous, hard and or boring. Robots did the big clumsy jobs that did not require a great deal of delicacy. Their lack of functionality limited applications in many industries that demanded fine motor control. Almost 15 years ago, the majority of robots worked in the automobile industry. Now, approximately only half of the robots sold work in automotive industry with the other half working in other industries according a PwC survey.

Why Use Robotics

Robots do not grow tired. Instead, they work continuously and never complain. The only down time they require is for repairs and maintenance. Their use improves overall quality and eliminates the risk of human error. Robots perform repetitive tasks faster than humans. Robots are now widely used in settings such as the aerospace industry, electronics manufacturers, food industry, movie making, printing and furniture building. In many cases these settings require accuracy that cannot be provided by human workers on a consistent basis.

How to Implement Robotics

Where to start? First identify where and if the need exists. Ask the following questions:

– Will the use of robotics help to meet company goals?

– Will orders be filled faster?

– Will revenues increase?

– Will quality improve?

– Will output increase?

If the answer to at least one of these questions is not yes, perhaps the use of robotics is more of a want and not a need. If the answers indicate improvements will be made, it is time to look at where to start. Examine all processes that could become mechanized, concentrating first on at the dangerous, dull, and demanding processes, then expand the search.

The initial cost of implementing a manufacturing robotics program can be costly. Calculate the return on investment to make the best decision possible. Remember the cost of tooling and implementation is more than just the equipment. Training, maintenance and upkeep play into the equation.

The future of robotics in manufacturing is very bright as their capabilities increase. Robotic technology now includes sensing capabilities, dexterity, and memory. They can be trained to learn new tasks. Technology will only continue to produce better robots capable of tasks that require finer detail, manual dexterity and agility not yet available.

A few drawbacks currently exist with robotic technology, such as its lack of creativity and their inability to act independently. Robots cannot make complicated decisions without human intervention but this will eventually change with the improvements in artificial intelligence. Robots are not able to effectively handle soft or floppy materials making them inappropriate for use in some industries.

The thought of moving towards robotic manufacturing can seem overwhelming. Contact us to learn about the services we provide or to discuss your most important business issues. Schedule a free evaluation by calling us at (973) 998-9801 or by clicking the button below

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