Robots used to seem impossible to small and medium manufacturers, but not anymore. Trends and advances in technology have made robots accessible to smaller companies. Luckily for them, investing in automation comes with benefits.
Robots provide benefits to manufacturers such as an increase in safety, quality, and output.
Automation is no longer an advantage for only the big players. Dramatic advances in robotic technologies and the decreasing costs of these technologies are making it possible for smaller manufacturers to acquire robots. In recent years, robotic technologies have become more affordable and their abilities more desirable to smaller manufacturers. Collaborative robots (co-bots) are beneficial to companies and their employees, which is why the market has seen an increase in spending.
253,748 robots were sold in 2015 were sold in 2015, with one-third of those going to automotive. Electrical sectors also received electronics as well as 12 percent for machinery. Other robots were acquired by pharmaceuticals, aerospace companies, and food packaging.
“Over the last decade there are a few things that have changed in the robot market that let us focus more on the smaller companies,” Sebastien Schmitt, robotic division manager for Staubli North America, a robotics manufacturer.
Smaller manufacturers are using robots for a variety of tasks. First, robots can function as stamping presses, milling machines, injection molding machines, and die casting cells. They can also put items together quickly and precisely. Beyond the usual welding and painting, robots are drilling holes and riveting aircrafts. Finally, quick and accurate, robots can also build pallets for shipping. Never tiring, never distracted, a robot follows each cycle exactly the same way. As a result, companies are seeing a decrease in variation and defects, customer complaints, and products that are unusable.
Humans Can Work Hand-in-Hand
They are also working alongside the human workforce. Small companies now have single machines functioning at high speeds, but also machines where operators can interact. Co-bots contain safety features so humans can work with the co-bots or manipulate them to assist with tasks. Repetitive lifting and bending can be harmful to workers, but a co-bot does them without risking injury.
Smaller Companies Can Too
“A few years back, robots required engineers working with them, and they were quite complex to program,” said Schmitt. “Today with the redefined machines, we’re able to make the technology accessible to small companies.”
What may have seemed as being impossible for smaller to medium sized manufacturers, is not within reach. Unlike a lot of automation, robots aren’t tied to a specific product and can be reprogrammed to adjust. For smaller manufacturers, it’s a smart investment with the potential for exceptional levels of return.