GAMS preview: Robotics deployment—the challenges
In preparation for the 2016 GAMS Conference on Sept. 14 in Chicago, CFE Media asked our panelists to discuss some of the key issues facing manufacturing. This is one in a daily series of articles.
The 2016 Global Automation and Manufacturing Summit (GAMS), presented by CFE Media, will bring together experts from all areas of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to look at not just the current state of IIoT but also at the potential benefits of deployment for the manufacturing industry.
The third GAMS conference takes place Wednesday, Sept. 14, beginning at noon. It is held in conjunction with the Industrial Automation North America (IANA) pavilion at the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show at McCormick Place in Chicago. The event is co-presented by Hannover Fairs USA.
In preparation for the 2016 GAMS Conference, CFE Media asked our panelists to discuss some of the key issues facing manufacturing. This is one in a daily series of articles leading up to this year's conference:
CFE Media: What are the challenges when incorporating robotics in manufacturing? What do you see as the advantages?
Vanden Boom: There are a range of technical challenges, cost justification challenges, and human resource challenges in implementing robotics. Most can be overcome with careful planning and setting the correct expectations. The advantages of robotics are many: cost reduction, increased capacity, improved quality, and improved workplace safety.
Rivera: Robots have been around us for a while, but the newer generations place robots in closer contact with humans. Safety cages are being eliminated, and in some cases robots begin to look more and more like a human. This has implications on the workers on the plant floor. Just like the challenges presented with any change, you can't afford to underestimate the impact, and you need to manage this change. Some of this is to be done with training, where the plant operators can see the benefits brought by robots and truly embrace the new technology. You need this ownership as deployment of new technology will require lots of fine-tuning, and operators need to be part of this fine-tuning effort.
Lindley: A common challenge that we see is first making sure the project pencils out. Companies can often get excited about the thought of a robot but overlook how to pay for it or have unrealistic expectations about ROI. If a project pencils in a year it is a no-brainer, but if the duration is 3 to 3 ½ years it could still be a great project considering the long-term usage of the robot. Companies also need to consider what other process changes a robot may present. Parts may need to be loaded and presented differently or conveyors need to be rearranged. A thorough work cell simulation will mitigate these risks. Robots have changed a lot in the last 5 years, and current offerings are easier to integrate and often cost less compared to their predecessors.
When done correctly, a robotic work cell presents significant advantages in worker safety, increased production capacity, and reductions in manufacturing costs.
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Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.
There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.
But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.
Read more: 2015 Salary Survey