10 reasons why Robotics have a place in your manufacturing operations
We know robots can benefit manufacturing through speed and accuracy, but they can also drive improvement in less obvious areas like safety and data capture. The UK Government’s ‘Made Smarter’ review estimates that automation and robotics present an £183.6 billion opportunity for the British economy. Yet British industry’s uptake of robotics lags behind other advanced economies. So is it time to look at the place of robotics in your manufacturing operations?
The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) reports the UK has only 71 robots per 10,000 employees while in Germany the figure is 309 per 10,000. And the gap is widening.
So why are UK firms reluctant to cash in on the opportunities robotics and
automation can deliver?
Shortage of skills and aversion to risk may account for some lag, but there is a wider problem of vision. While it is easy to recognise the potential of robotics for industry and society as a whole, the drivers for individual businesses to invest in robotic solutions are less well defined or understood. There may also be misconceptions about the costs of automation, especially for custom one-off applications
or non-standard systems.
It is tempting, especially for large established organisations, to view investment and advances in robotics through the prism of cost-cutting; by automating X, we’ll save Y. But this approach is little more than a race to the bottom that misses the more fundamental opportunities presented by automation and robotics – to transform the way we work, what we make and how we make it.
Recent analysis by McKinsey & Co has found that among industry sectors manufacturing is second only to hospitality in terms of what it stands to gain from investment in automation. The report states that:
rapid advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning are enabling machines to match or outperform humans in a range of work activities, including ones requiring cognitive capabilities
So how can UK manufacturing businesses benefit from these rapid advances?
Let’s take a look at some of the other benefits promised by greater adoption of automation and robotics with our list of 10 reasons why Robotics have a place in your manufacturing operations:
Robots don’t get tired or lose concentration; parameters can be set to deliver precision results every time. Reduced rework and scrap drives profit and greater precision drives quality and brand capital.
Improved reporting and auditability
The use of robotics naturally involves sensors, controllers and data capture tools – delivering the perfect infrastructure for real-time reporting and detailed analysis.
Wherever there is data, there is the opportunity for analysis. Thus in your manufacturing processes, this can be used to drive the incremental improvements, in process, resource utilisation and more, that make huge differences over time.
Workplace safety and ergonomics
It can sometimes be too easy to see the relationship between workers and robotics as one of replacement. Although robot use certainly delivers benefits and reduces risk in contaminated environments, a better model could be one of augmentation; where robotics enhance the workplace, support workers and help to drive quality improvements. This is certainly the case with collaborative robots or Cobots.
Even when robotics can’t take over the entire task, they have a role to play in offering real-time information and, based on that, guidance to operators.
If the best operators define expected results so robots can guide new staff, training and induction cycles are reduced, waste minimised and knowledge and expertise safeguarded and retained.
Free “workers” to become “talent”
If robots are able to take on repetitive tasks, you can leverage the cognitive abilities of workers to drive further process improvements and innovation.
More flexible production
Many automation initiatives are underway to drive greater agility into manufacturing processes. Additive manufacturing may be leading here, but robotics and automation have roles to play in delivering greater process and output flexibility.
Drive product innovation
Greater operational flexibility, more engaged employees and a culture of continuous improvement won’t only drive process improvements, they create opportunities to rethink output too.
For all these reasons and more, robotics is seen as the key to increasing productivity.
Through the Made Smarter review, the UK Government is aiming to raise awareness of these potential benefits among British industry and manufacturing to, in Juergen Maier’s words “take a much more significant leadership role and a much greater slice of the opportunities arising from the fourth industrial revolution”.
However, what this looks like for individual businesses will be very different. For successful commercial application of these exciting and promising new technologies, UK Manufacturing will need to begin with their business or customer need and reverse engineer solutions from there.
Explore case studies where we’ve helped companies use robotic automation to improve their manufacturing:
As an established robotics and automation solutions provider, Astech Projects is perfectly positioned to offer insightful, independent advice wherever you are on your automation and robotics journey.
Contact us now on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01928 571797 to discuss which of these 10 reasons might give robotics a place in your manufacturing operations.