The use of mobile robotics offers enormous opportunities for manufacturing companies. At the same time, introducing the technology can be a real challenge. We want to support you with concrete, practical tips.
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Mobile Robotics: Opportunity And Challenge
Do you deal with the topic of mobile robotics? You are not alone there. More and more production managers are currently dedicating themselves to automating their intralogistics. Companies recognize the advantages that this step offers them:
- Increased productivity and flexibility
- Error prevention
- Material traceability
- More effective use of employees as their most valuable resource
No wonder, then, that mobile robotics is very popular.
Consider The Degree of Flexibility Needed.
The first question regarding mobile robotics is: What solution do I need? The counter-question is: How flexible can it be? The individualization of products and, consequently, the flexibilization of production systems is constantly increasing. Nevertheless, the degree of flexibility that a mobile robotic solution must bring is different in each application. Many mobile robots are on the market – from track-bound models (AGV = Automated Guided Vehicle) to autonomously driving solutions (AMR = Autonomous Mobile Robot).
Autonomous mobile robots generally offer more flexibility than their track-bound relatives. Nevertheless, there are still enough use cases for all models today. When choosing your mobile robotics solution, we recommend an as-is analysis to identify how much flexibility is needed in your factory today and in the future.
Put Your Current Intralogistics Concept To The Test.
In most cases, the first reflex when automating intralogistics is to convert the existing concepts and systems to an automated variant. A mobile robot, therefore, carries out the activities that were previously carried out manually. This can be the right way, but it doesn’t have to be.
The manual execution of intralogistics activities and the use of mobile robotics are two different approaches. An ideal intralogistics concept looks correspondingly different. When discussing the optimal use of mobile robotics, it makes sense not to regard them as simple employee replacements. Mobile robotics is a complementary technology that offers new perspectives – through individual structures, combination with other technologies (e.g., cobots), or interaction in the fleet network.
Therefore, we recommend: Let us show you your options and decide, independently of existing structures, what makes the most sense for your factory.
Perform A Technology-Adapted ROI Calculation.
The ROI can be calculated relatively easily with classic automation – for example, an assembly or test process. The automation saves cycle time X, scrap Y, or complaint costs Z. This, in turn, can be easily converted to the respective component.
However, mobile robotics does not affect a single process but the entire production. As already described, mobile robots do not replace a specific employee in a specific activity but complement the production system as a holistically integrated technology. To determine the benefit, you should therefore think across processes. For example, ask yourself the following questions:
- On which systems can mobile robotics start as a downstream process?
- How many transport routes can be saved by mobile robotics every day?
- How much time is freed up that employees can use to add value?
- To what extent are the employees’ working conditions (ergonomics) improving?
Some effects can be determined ad hoc (transport routes, transport times, etc.), and others can be seen over the long term (sick days, fluctuation rate, etc.). However, the more relevant factors you include in your calculations, the more precisely you can determine and argue the benefits of mobile robotics for yourself. As you can see, it pays to look at the overall picture.
Think Big But Start Small.
Mobile robotics works across processes. It creates value in your entire production. The long-term goal should be to exploit this value. “Think Big” is a good approach, especially in the conception phase of your project: you think outside the box. They develop alternative intralogistics concepts. Looking at the big picture allows such a strategy development.
In a concrete implementation, however, a reverse approach is recommended: “Start Small.” A hasty start with many robots, models, and providers is extremely difficult to realize – both technically and organizationally, as well as culturally. One must not forget that mobile robotics is a process that means cultural change. Start with 1 mobile robot first, and counteract it. You can learn, pick up your people, and scale based on your insights.
You must rely on a scalable concept right from the start. Even if you start small, a mobile robot rarely comes alone. Functioning fleet management is essential in the medium term.
Also Read: The Technologies Behind The Rise Of Robots
Get Relevant Stakeholders On Board Early And Transparently.
A mobile robotics project will not only find supporters in your company. For your project’s success, taking people with you is important. It’s about transparent communication right from the start. In this way, concerns and misunderstandings can be eliminated. You will also receive valuable input to help you as the project progresses. But who are the relevant stakeholders?
- Management (C-Level)
- works for council
- employees in production
Ultimately, anyone whose work is affected by mobile robotics is interested in your project. Your decisive success factor will be finding and promoting so-called missionaries as technology drivers. At the same time, you should stay in close contact with those stakeholders who are not yet convinced. In this way, you ensure that your entry into mobile robotics is not only a technological success but a cultural one.