Purchasing your First Industrial Robot? Follow these 3 Easy Steps.

The advanced robotics industry is trending towards providing flexible and accessible automation options for small and medium manufacturers (SMMs). That means there are more and more companies looking at robotic implementation for the first time. Following 3 easy steps up front – determining your needs, picking the right robot, and proper preparation and implementation – will save manufacturer’s time and money while integrating an industrial robot.

Determine Your Needs

The decision to add an industrial robot to a manufacturing facility requires a lot of thought and consideration. What need will the robot fill? What role will it perform? Some SMMs will add a robot in order to bridge the skills gap and help with labor shortages, while others will use robotic implementation to improve their asset performance and fast-track their Lean initiatives.

It’s best to start simple and recognize that the obvious improvements – the dirty, dull, dangerous, or highly repetitive jobs – should be the first areas to address when adding advanced robotics. It’s also important to remember that culture plays a role in the success of implementation. Everyone needs to be on board with the changes, and willing to take responsibility and play their part in preventative maintenance, safety standards, and continuous improvement goals.

Pick the Right Robot

With the field of industrial robotics rapidly changing, there are a growing number of options in the market. One of the first questions for manufacturers to ask is ‘How much robot do we need?’ It’s important to remember that robots can be reusable, and do not need to be locked into one task for the extent of their life. With this flexibility in mind, it may be in a SMMs best interest to purchase a larger robot that can handle potential reach and payload requirements in the future. On the flipside, perhaps a manufacturer should purchase a collaborative robot, or cobot, that sacrifices some speed and payload potential for simple installation and ease of use.

While some SMM’s have in-house experts, it is often wise for a company to work with a Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) to gain knowledge up front and avoid potentially costly mistakes in your robotics project. Catalyst Connection can help in a variety of ways, from performing a readiness assessment to determining capacity needs and limitations, to ROI analysis, and conducting a systems integrator selection project drawing from our extensive network of vetted providers.

Prepare and Implement

Adding an industrial robot to the manufacturing floor can be quite disruptive for employees, so preparing them for the change is key. Listening to concerns- Are their jobs in jeopardy because of automation? Will their routines and schedules be completely undone once the robot is installed? – is important for SMMs as they meet these challenges head-on. Developing and delivering an automation communication plan can help answer common questions and address initial concerns, as well as provide vision for the future.

Once everyone is on board, a thorough training program will set employees up for success, while a comprehensive maintenance schedule will ensure that downtime is limited and personal responsibility is highlighted. Catalyst Connection also offers various seminars and workshops for ongoing development.

Take Action

Advanced robotics can be a game changer, and Catalyst Connection knows that adding automation through an industrial robot is not out of reach for small manufacturers. By leveraging a partnership with Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, (ARM) Catalyst seeks to accelerate adoption of robotics technology and spur education to grow US manufacturing. By spending the time to determine your needs, pick the right robot, and prepare and implement an adoption plan, SMMs can reap the full benefits of adding their first industrial robot.