For small to mid-sized manufacturers, any gain in productivity can have a huge impact. Automation offers significant advantages, but many small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) believe that robotics is out of their reach. These organisations cannot afford large, complex robots that do not fit within their limited floor space. These complex robots require specialised personnel to program and maintain them, and that is simply too expensive, with a payback period that is too long to justify the investment.
A new generation of collaborative robots (or “cobots”) is changing the game for smaller manufacturers, helping them compete more effectively, offering new opportunities for employees, and even improving worker safety. Darrell Adams, Head of Southeast Asia & Oceania, Universal Robots, shares 5 essential requirements that will put robotics within SME’s reach.
Setting up a conventional industrial robot can take days or even weeks. These are the time and disruption that SMEs simply cannot afford. When ready to automate, manufacturers or any untrained operator need to be able to unpack the new robot, mount it, and begin programming simple tasks in a matter of hours. Collaborative robot arms, such as those from Universal Robots (UR), weigh as little as 11 kg, and can be set up in less than a day.
Improving the small business culture
Most SMEs operates with 50 to 250 employees, having a shared sense of culture among the small group of employees is important for SMEs. Businesses run best when employees enjoy their assigned jobs, encouraging productivity and efficiency. Having cobots to automate the monotonous and strenuous tasks give employees more freedom to take on better and more exciting roles. SMEs need not worry about releasing these employees as no robots can replace human creativity and critical thinking. Instead, SMEs are elevating employees’ job titles by retraining employees to work alongside robots.
PT JVC Electronics Indonesia (JEIN), a global leader in electronic and entertainment products, deployed seven units of Universal Robots’ UR3 cobots to increase productivity and achieve consistent quality. The adoption of UR3 lessened the burden on workers to perform menial and repetitive tasks. JEIN witnessed an improvement in production efficiency and stable quality of output. With the move towards automation, employees can be redeployed to other processes and operational costs were reduced by more than USD 80,000 yearly. With cobots working alongside humans, it helps to humanise labour, establishing a better company culture.
Collaborative and safe
Conventional industrial robots require a large, separate enclosure, which adds cost, takes up operational space, and reduces flexibility on the production floor. Management also has to be concerned with the safety risk if someone manages to get inside the enclosure while the robot is activated.
However, small manufacturers cannot afford to dedicate large areas to robotic operation. Today’s collaborative robots can work side-by-side with human workers in complementary operations. For example, the innovative force-sensing technology built into UR robots means the robot stops operating if it comes into contact with a human, and 80 per cent of the thousands of UR robots in operation worldwide work right beside human operators with no safety guarding (upon risk assessment).
4. Flexible deployment for multiple uses
Dedicated industrial robots can limit small and mid-sized manufacturers who often have small production batches and require fast change-overs. In contrast, new collaborative robots are lightweight, space-saving, and easy to redeploy to multiple locations without changing the production layout. With the ability to reuse programs for recurring tasks, they support agile manufacturing processes with minimal set-up time and effort.
Fast payback of your investment
Of course, any automation investment for a small or mid-sized manufacturer must pay for itself as quickly as possible. Universal Robots gives SMEs all the advantages of advanced robotic automation, with none of the traditional added costs associated with robot programming, set up, and dedicated, shielded work cells. With an average payback period as short as twelve months, robotic automation is finally affordable for small and mid-sized manufacturers.
Universal Robots believes that collaborative technology can be used to benefit all aspects of task-based businesses, regardless of their size. The nominal investment costs can be quickly recovered, such benefits from the latest collaborative technology should be available to all businesses.
By: Darrell Adams, Head of Southeast Asia & Oceania, Universal Robots
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