Implementing industrial robotics can be a challenging task, especially for plants that are dependent on conventional techniques. There are several technical, financial, and logistical considerations that must be accounted for before a robot can be incorporated within the workplace.
While there is a long and exhaustive list of challenges that can be jotted down, it is easier to start out with the most major ones and get them out of the way first. The five most daunting challenges manufacturers may face while implementing robotics are as follows:
Employee Skillset and Training
Surely, robots are implemented in the plant floor, so they can mostly work on their own, once programmed. But, from time to time, they will need interruptions and maintenance. These will be carried out by on-site employees. A new level of expertise must be ingrained within the employees in order to maintain smooth operation. This may mean discharging employees who lack the necessary skills or hiring new ones that have proper certifications and experience. The situation can get messy very quickly, especially in large scale implementations, therefore, it is wise to plan beforehand. A good way to start would be offering employees training regimen while incorporating new team members to help with the transition.
Industrial robots can constitute for safety hazards depending on their mechanical strength. There are strict workplace regulations that must be followed, otherwise your company may get fined while employees’ lives would be in danger. Manufacturers must deal with this issue seriously, and the easiest way to do so is designing work cells, cordoned by light or pressure sensors. For the case of collaborative robots, sensors can send off control signals that would reduce the speed of operation when a human enters the workspace. This would help keep productivity at certain levels.
Robots aren’t cheap. There’s a large cost involved with robots, usually one that has to be paid upfront. Technological breakthroughs have driven costs down, but they still have a long way to go. In order to avoid additional costs, robots should be selected according to careful design, after the requirements have been taken into considerations. Oversizing the robot based on margin of safety would only reduce return on investment.
Managing Product Workflow
After a robot has been installed, what would product workflows look like? All related teams should be taken in confidence and new processes should be developed in a timely manner so that productivity doesn’t take a hit. Ideally, this should be done during the design phase, so that any changes can be incorporated early on, rather than after implementation.
No implementation, robotic or otherwise would succeed if all functions, technical and business, aren’t on the same page. It is vital for the leadership to intervene and clear out any queries or worries operators may have regarding robotics implementation. Beneficial employee policies should be part of the implementation so that no one feels threatened by job cuts. Lastly, all stakeholders should hold a positive attitude towards the project, whether technical, financial or managerial, so that a concentrated effort can be made towards success.