The decision to purchase a robot is one that takes careful consideration. Since robotic automation is often a significant investment, you want to make sure the equipment can handle the unique needs of your facility’s application. Unfortunately, many robotic manufacturers lack the resources to customize robots to fit the needs of every end-user. One way to mitigate that issue is to use robotic integration.
What is Robotic Integration?
Robotic integration allows robotic systems to be programmed and outfitted for specific automated manufacturing tasks (4). To take advantage of robotic integration, you need robotic integrators, which are companies that will individually evaluate each project to determine the best robotic technology for the job.
There are two main applications for robotic integration: industrial robotics and collaborative robotics.
The main goal of collaborative robots, or cobots, is to fulfill a range of tasks by working alongside human laborers. Collaborative robots include anything from multi-axis arms to lift and position heavy components to completing heavy-duty tasks such as welding to supplement labor shortages or handle variable volume production (8).
Industrial robots are commonly used in a wide variety of factories to complete repetitive, monotonous tasks for industrial facilities. Often used to perform jobs requiring high precision and repeatability, the appeal of these robots is their ability to produce constant output without taking a break.
Benefits of Robotic Integration
Integrating robots into your facility can alleviate stressors in the workflow. If the correct job or process can be replaced or improved with robotic integration, vast improvements can be seen in process accuracy, product consistency and quality, speed-to-market, and operational costs. (6).
If you work with an experienced robotics integrator, the benefits become multifold. You will likely get the added advantage of access to a diverse global network of partnerships with industry leaders in robotics. This means they already have experience in a wide variety of industries to ensure every customer gets the technology they need to improve their processes.
For example, SDC has a long-standing relationship as the robotic integrator for FANUC, Epson, Yaskawa/Motoman, Mitsubishi, and many more (1). Furthermore, experienced integrators can ensure no matter what type of robotic integration system you choose, safety and ergonomics are at the forefront of the design.
What to Look for In A Robotics Integrator
The key to making the most of your robotic system integration is to find a robotics integrator team dedicated to suggesting and implementing the most optimal functionality and features based on the specifications, configurations, needs, and budget for the job at hand.
You will want to find an integrator that is thoroughly trained on how to identify and solve end-to-end manufacturing needs while having a track record of proven results.
The best robotics integrators should be able to:
- Identify the problem by analyzing manufacturing, material handling, shipping, assembly, or inspections lines to determine which areas can be improved with robotics
- Rely on past experiences and extensive expertise to provide a plan with reliable products and solutions
- Build, install, and test the robot system
- Provide suggestions on cost-saving measures
- Conduct training on programming, correct operation, and system maintenance
- Help integrate the robotic solution into the manufacturing process
How to Have a Successful Integration
To guide you through the process of successful robotic integration while avoiding potential pitfalls, here are some steps that will help achieve a successful robotic integration:
- Make sure you have support across the facility– With new technology may come some hesitation. From your colleagues to your decision-makers, people often need to be reassured that robots don’t necessarily mean a loss of jobs. To get buy-in, it helps to emphasize the benefits in efficiency, productivity, safety, and profit. (9)
- Understand the potential scope of the project – Integrating robots is a large undertaking for your facility. Although its benefits are vast, it may take time to allocate necessary resources, work with your robotic integrator, come up with a design, and train your employees. Make sure you have a realistic idea of the time and manpower needed to make this project a success, including lead time to delivery and training commitments (11).
- Identify your goal – Whether it is gaining throughput, increasing production capabilities, being scalable, or saving on labor costs, you will want to identify your driving factors for integrating robots. Knowing your goal may even help in convincing your company executives of the value-added benefits of integrating robotic systems into your facility. Even after the project has started, identifying, understanding, and maintaining awareness of your goal can help to keep the project on track when you’re reminded of your target objective – just make sure your goal doesn’t solve one problem but create another (9) (10).
- Clearly define your budget – One way to define the success of your robotic integration project is to properly budget prior to receiving proposals. When you know what financial resources you can allocate to the project, you can initiate the project sooner and you can more easily determine your ROI. When budgeting for this investment, take into account that the return is often seen in a variety of metrics including increased safety, greater efficiency, a reduction in defects, and less material waste (2) (9).
- Pick an integrator that has specialized in your application – First and foremost, using a reputable robotic integrator is the way to go, especially one with a diverse skill set and network of experts. They are worth their weight in gold by helping you take advantage of modern technologies in your field, leveraging existing technologies, understanding the functional requirements of your needed tools, and can plan a project based on your unique needs. Look for an integrator that has a successful track record of solving multifaceted problems in your application using purpose-built robots that solve particular automation problems (2) (10).
- Prioritize training – When the project is wrapping up, it is essential to prioritize the training of key personnel including your operators, managers, and maintenance crew. Not only can it contribute to faster and more effective startups, but training is also the key to adoption, proper use, maintenance, and safety (9).
At SDC, we are a robotic integration leader that prides itself on providing the best-suited robotic technology package into virtually every industry. Our dedicated team of experts assesses each project to determine how to recommend, implement, and program your robots into your facility. Contact our robotic experts today to discuss your upcoming automation project, and don’t forget to check out our past projects.