The Importance of Adaptability in the Industrial Robotics Sector
Automation systems are predicted to account for 25% of capital spending in the industrial sector within the next five years, with CPG and logistics and fulfillment predicted to spend the most. At the same time, the automotive sector is staring down the barrel of EVs and how they will affect automated manufacturing, and e-commerce is increasing the demand for mobile robots.
There’s a lot going on in industrial robotics. We’re seeing automation spread across all sectors of industry, with the most common applications of automation technology being palletizing, material handling, counting, and sorting. And with the advent of mobile robots, we’re also seeing the possible applications of robotics proliferate.
With this new automation technology evermore available and constantly developing, the major obstacle that arises is actually implementing this new technology. While new manufacturing facilities may be able to start from scratch, existing companies need innovative, flexible and adaptive implementation of robotic automation to truly unlock their potential.
Automation Helps Manufacturers Work Around Labor Obstacles
Manufacturers today face logistical hurdles to overcome when it comes to human labor. It’s widely acknowledged there is higher demand than supply of human capital. Couple this shortage with the inherent problems and inconsistency that come with human error – especially in repetitive tasks – and it’s easy to see why automation is the best solution.
4D machine vision technology has revolutionized the field of industrial robotics, offering automated options for processes like counting, palletizing and identifying surface defects like porosity in metals manufacturing. It has increased robot processing speeds, enhanced safety via obstacle identification and reroute, and boosted their adaptability in terms of environmental and task-based changes.
As well, AI software focused on machine response has made collaborative and mobile robots much more adaptable and flexible, making that theory of how useful robotic automation could be into an applicable reality. AI software for industrial robots has made them capop0abl0mve of completing more complex tasks, planning and decision-making, and performing predictive maintenance. It’s this software that also expands robots’ ability to cooperate and interact with human workers.
Common Types of Industrial Robotic Process Automation
There are several types of industrial robots, each with different applications and different approaches to human-machine interaction:
- Articulated (multi-axis and complex)
- Cartesian (xyz linear)
- Collaborative (direct human interaction, simple to complex)
- Cylindrical (vertical and slide)
- Delta/Parallel (pick/place)
- Polar (cast and mold)
- SCARA (lateral)
As well, many warehouse-style facilities like inventory, distribution, storage, or data centers, are beginning to incorporate autonomous robots. These robots use vision tech and machine learning to move around the facility and complete tasks on their own, completely replacing the need for a worker to store/retrieve difficult-to-find items.
And robotics can be applied to nearly every facet of a company’s operations:
- Order fulfillment: receiving and processing orders, picking and packing products, shipping orders to customers
- Inventory management: inventory tracking, forecasting, replenishment
- Manufacturing: production planning, quality control, machine maintenance
- Customer service: responding to customer inquiries, processing customer orders, resolving customer issues
- Accounting and finance: accounts payable, accounts receivable, financial reporting
- Human resources: payroll processing, onboarding new employees, managing benefits
Automation Companies Help Manufacturers Overcome Robot Obstacles
Just as there are human labor obstacles to navigate when adopting robotic systems, manufacturers also face automated labor obstacles at the front end of the process: implementation. Humans need to be even more adaptable than the robots they use; the perception of change is a significant pitfall when it comes to a company’s decision on whether or not to utilize robot automation systems.
There’s another facet to that adaptability, though, and it needs to happen on the part of the control system integrator. Robotics automation companies need to understand the unique goals of each manufacturer and design an integrated control system that fits into the operational culture of that company. This requires experienced, creative engineers that involve people every step of the way – from initial assessment to turnkey implementation, training and ongoing support.
The relationship between manufacturing client and system integrator is all-important when it comes to adopting automated systems and integrating robots with their human resources. Since this perceptual and physical reorganization is such a bottleneck to the expansion of robotic automation, partnering with a system integrator known for their effective, leading-edge automation services is key to riding the front of the robotics wave.
Cybersecurity is Key to Successful Robotics Implementation
While the shift to digital has already brought IT to the forefront of operational security in the industrial sector, the shift to automation has compounded its importance. IIoT and robots need to be integrated on a network as well as a cloud, and this leaves companies susceptible to system failures caused by bad actors.
These are hazards that can be circumvented with a threefold approach to IT management for robotics automation: thorough risk assessments, advanced cybersecurity measures, and redundant system integration that ensures the operator is always aware of the status of their system.
Manufacturers need to partner with automation firms known for their specialized IT/OT engineers and adept custom system integration in order to ensure the security of their robotic systems. Control system integrators who partner with elite automation companies like Rockwell, AVEVA, Siemens, and Allen Bradley are able to offer clients secure automation system solutions that utilize the latest in scalable, state-of-the-art robotics control design.
Collaborative & Mobile Robots Need to Interface with the Workforce
Perhaps just as important as the quality of the robots and automation system you implement is the quality of the human-machine interfacing. The people running your facility need to understand how to interact with robots, especially when dealing with collaborative and mobile robots.
Truly implementing robotic automation isn’t about replacing human labor, but streamlining operations and allowing human capital the space they need to perform more critical tasks, avoiding repetitive and/or dangerous ones. Robots can supplement human labor shortages, collaborate with critical human labor, and drastically cut the costs associated with time-consuming repetitive tasks and human error.
E Tech Group automation engineers involve our clients’ key players at every step of the process, whether it’s an end-to-end project or replacing one piece of obsolete equipment with robotic automation. Mass retraining on how to interact with or alongside robots, as well as the integrated control system, allows clients to best utilize this cutting-edge technology, improving their operations in the process.
Operational Benefits of Implementing Robotics Automation
Incorporating robotics into mechanized processes has potentially limitless implications for a manufacturer’s present and future viability. These include:
- Increased productivity: Robots can work faster and more accurately than humans.
- Improved quality: Robots can ensure consistent quality in production.
- Reduced costs: Robots can help to reduce costs associated with labor, materials and energy.
- Improved safety: Robots can be used to perform dangerous or repetitive tasks.
- Greater flexibility: Robots can be easily reprogrammed to perform different tasks.
In short – robotics automation can supercharge a manufacturer’s capabilities in the present, and future-proof operations scalability and labor limitations. However, for these benefits to be fully-realized, control system integrator and client must incorporate the values we’ve discussed:
- Thorough assessments, analysis and planning should inform actions of all relevant parties from project start to finish.
- Risks must be identified and analyzed so the automation company can design a system with redundant security features that minimize cybersecurity vulnerabilities. For every automated piece of equipment a facility adds – robot or not – the system becomes more vulnerable. Integrator and client must work closely to develop a security plan.
- During project development and system design, staff from shop floor to top floor should be included – keeping everyone informed throughout a robotics upgrade helps avoid pitfalls related to the psychology of change.
- Prior to full implementation, the system integrator must provide comprehensive training on the new robots and automated system design. This helps avoid pitfalls that stem from unfamiliarity with a new system. The automation company upgrading the system and control panels should focus on creating user-friendly HMIs that can easily be accessed and configured on the floor.
- Ongoing system support by the integration contractor on-premise and remotely will help smooth the rest of the bumps in the road that are a natural consequence of transitioning to robotics.
E Tech Group: Innovative, Disruptive Automation System Integration for Robotics
As the field of industrial robotics progresses and proliferates, manufacturers need control system solutions that make the most of this state-of-the art automation technology. Robotics automation companies need to be just as adaptable as the equipment they’re automating, with reliable control system design that allows for scale while adhering to strict industry standards.
E Tech Group is one of the largest control system integrators in North America, offering robotics automation services to a diverse group of industrial clients who want to expand their capabilities while remaining flexible for inevitable developments in automation technology. Our robotics clients can expect intuitive control system design, cybersafe integrated automation systems, training, and ongoing system support.
Plan for the future of your manufacturing enterprise by planning for the future of industrial robotics.