Five questions to ask before investing in robotic automation

Robotic automation can provide efficiency and productivity benefits, but companies need to effectively plan for automation to maximize the potential they can bring.
By Robotic Industries Association (RIA) March 30, 2019
Courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE Media

Investing in robotic automation, especially for the first time, requires careful consideration and planning before a robot is ever installed on the factory floor. A company’s processes and your business need to be prepared for the throughput and cost-savings of robotic automation. In order to find the right robotic solution, the company needs an in-depth understanding of operations and how this relates to the capabilities of automation.

Robots can bring several efficiency and productivity benefits to nearly any factory floor, but effectively planning for automation can help maximize the benefits you receive from robotic automation.

Before investing in robotic automation, there are five questions companies should ask.

1. Why are you automating?

It’s important to first and foremost ask why your organization should automate. This will help establish goals for automation and ensure that all engineers and executives are in alignment. Common driving factors include inflated production costs, a need to increase production volume, poor product quality, problems with precision, and safety issues.

2. Can you define the current process?

Successful automation requires a deep understanding of all production processes. It requires that processes are all documented and can be clearly communicated to a robot integrator, and that all problem areas are clearly identified, so that the best-suited technology for your application can be implemented.

3. Can you identify your requirements?

It’s critical to begin the process of automating manual tasks, or existing robotic applications, by thoroughly understanding your automation requirements. Typically, this may include the desired cycle time, the level of precision required for high-quality products, or the payload and reach of a given robot.

4. What automation components will you need?

No robot comes by itself – there are a number of other application-specific considerations. For example, how will the part be presented to the robot? Will a vision system or force sensing system be needed to ensure proper part placement? Other components like end-of-arm tooling (EOAT), factory standards, and the robot base are key cost and productivity considerations.

5. What kind of labor is needed to operate robots?

Robots typically deliver labor savings, but they also require specialized expertise to be brought in to operate robots. This is an important consideration because this adds an initial cost to investing in robotics but investing in specialized expertise can also deliver long-term productivity benefits as robot operators continually optimize robot performance.

When investing in robotic automation, it’s wise to only make a decision when current processes and corresponding automation capabilities have been closely examined. A knowledgeable and reputable robot integrator can help install the most productive robotic system for the application.

This article originally appeared on the Robotics Online BlogRobotic Industries Association (RIA) is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

Robotic Industries Association (RIA)