Utilizing robots in manufacturing facilities has been a much-debated topic of increasing importance over the last decade. As robotics continue to be incorporated in the manufacturing process, one point to consider is how such advanced technologies impact the role of the manufacturing worker – especially in terms of safety.

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What Are Advanced Robotics?

Robots are automated, programmable electromechanical mechanisms that sense objects in their environment and respond accordingly.  Advanced robotics is the result of combining the sophisticated hardware and software that use Smart technologies, such as machine vision, artificial intelligence (AI), and touch and light sensors, to impact manufacturing processes. These advancements allow advanced robotics to run around the clock without stopping, even without human oversight. 

Advanced robotics don’t just perform simple industrial tasks; they can document data and respond to new information so they can actively improve. As advancements in AI and Smart technologies continue to be made, advanced robotics will continue to increase the complexity and capability of the operations that can be performed. 

How Has Robotics Changed Manufacturing Technology?

Manufacturing has been greatly impacted by advanced robotics. Industrial robots have been making significant impacts in multiple industries since they were first introduced in the 1960s. Currently, about 2.7 million industrial robots are operating on plant floors around the world. This impact cannot be overstated; robots have streamlined the overall assembly workflow and increased collaboration with human operators and employees. By streamlining repetitive tasks, robots can produce high volumes of materials quickly and without the fatigue that human workers may experience with the monotonous nature of some jobs.

The increasing abilities of advanced robotics have allowed them to accomplish repetitive tasks even faster and more efficiently. By absorbing data, advanced robotics enable manufacturers to gather valuable insights into operations for better decision-making. In combination with machine learning technologies, advanced robotics can avoid making errors that lead to scrap waste, lost revenue, and extended downtime. 

What Are the Benefits of Automation?

By incorporating robots into their manufacturing operations, small and medium-sized organizations can strive to enhance their manufacturing capabilities and increase their overall productivity and growth. Some benefits of incorporating automation into your manufacturing operation include:

Improved Productivity and Plant Output

If plant productivity is defined by the number of end products manufactured per unit of time, workers, etc., then it would be directly related to how efficiently these input resources are being used. A robot does not require breaks or time-off for lunch.  Additionally, robots don’t receive overtime pay and will work for days or even weeks without stopping and without complaining!  Think of the productivity increase that will result from using a robot to do after-hours processing – “n” units of additional quality products, with no additional labor costs! Automation tools, such as robotics, can enable plant operators to schedule workflow and labor usage in a much more efficient manner.

Product Consistency

Human visual inspection techniques are often tedious and time-consuming. Small manufacturers that utilize these techniques often experience inconsistencies in their product quality when production suddenly ramps up. In fact, this is most likely the one aspect of manufacturing that has benefitted the most from automation, thanks to advances in machine vision technology. Machine vision systems can be used to guide robots, inspect parts, gauge dimensions and identify defects in the parts produced.

Increased Profitability and Growth Potential

Profitability is typically one of the biggest concerns for manufacturers. As already discussed, automation technologies help to improve productivity and product quality—which contribute directly to improved profitability. Not only does profitability add to stakeholder value, but it also allows manufacturers to be more strategic when it comes to investing in plant operations and expanding product lines.

How Can Advanced Robotics Increase Employee Safety and Productivity?

One significant benefit to employees’ safety deals with the reduction of ergonomic injuries that often impact workers. By deploying robots, repetitive motion injuries, such as carpal tunnel, back injuries, etc. can be reduced or eliminated. Any reduction in lost time injuries offers significant value in terms of workers’ quality of life as well as reduced costs for employers.

Robots themselves are installed with required safety precautions. Safety curtains and cages, that are built into robotic integration, render it nearly impossible to get near the robot and get hurt while the robot is running. Operating heavy machinery has inherent risks, therefore proper machine guarding is essential to keep workers safe.

Incorporating robotics into your manufacturing operation also results in morale being boosted on the facility floor. Job roles that include many repetitive and somewhat mindless tasks tend to have high turnover.  Giving these tasks to a robot often reduces turnover because of the reduction in workers having to do dull and unrewarding tasks. With the robots doing the mundane jobs, your employees are able to perform tasks that require a little bit of brainwork. This, in turn, can lead to a boost in employee morale.

Thanks to industrial robots, the manufacturing industry is on the verge of a revolution – especially in terms of employee safety. As robotics in manufacturing processes becomes even more intelligent, efficient, and cost-effective, robots are being called on to handle more complex tasks. But this doesn’t mean robotics are out of reach for small to medium-sized manufacturing companies. 

With the right guidance, you can determine which manufacturing robotics can be right for your manufacturing facilities and production processes. Reach out to the robotic automation experts at CMTC and see how robot manufacturing can transform your own business!

About the Author

Gregg Profozich

Gregg Profozich is a manufacturing, operations and technology executive who believes that manufacturing is the key creator of wealth in the economy and that a strong manufacturing sector is critical to our nation’s prosperity and security now, and for future generations. Across his 20-year plus career in manufacturing, operations and technology consulting, Mr. Profozich helped manufacturing companies from the Fortune 500 to the small, independents significantly improve their productivity and competitiveness.

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