There are around 3 million industrial robots in use worldwide, and the market is expected to grow to $45 billion by 2028. At a minimum, robots can perform routine tasks with consistent quality. At a maximum, robots will be a strategic advantage to your business. It is no wonder clients are implementing them at a fast pace and investing widely.

The Robot Advantage

Robots can provide many advantages for manufacturers. The United States is rapidly approaching “peak 65” as younger baby boomers turn 65 this year. As this largest wave of retirements in U.S. history occurs, manufacturers and distributors are struggling to find the talent to meet customer needs. The situation doesn’t look positive as according to a Deloitte analysis, one third of manufacturing workers are over 55 years old.

Yet, a manufacturing resurgence is underway as companies look for ways to mitigate risk and serve customers by reshoring and expanding regional manufacturing. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2030. Thus, a critical advantage is that robots can supplement the manufacturing workforce.

In addition to enabling growth, robots increase productivity and efficiency. This will lead to improved margins and can increase production output, thus fostering sales growth with high customer service levels. Although counter intuitive, robots can improve flexibility as they can be retooled, repositioned, and reconfigured to support changes in product mix. Robots will also increase quality and safety as they take on tough tasks such as heavy lifting.

Industrial Robots at an Industrial Equipment Manufacturer

In an industrial equipment manufacturer, they brought a robot in the facility to pilot. After several months of piloting the process, they determined that although there were advantages, it didn’t make financial sense overall. Thus, they decided to return the robot. However, less than six months later, they were struggling to find enough resources to keep up with the sales volume in the welding department, and so they researched robots again.

They brought in a welding robot arm for sheet metal. The robot was transformative. The process went from 13 hours to 20 minutes, and most importantly, quality improved with the consistency of the robot. In addition, they no longer required grinding which allowed them to transition three resources to another department to better support sales growth while improving the margins with the weld process.

Industrial Robots for EDM in Aerospace

An aerospace manufacturer struggled to keep up with customer demand because they had a bottleneck in their EDM shop. The past due backlog was building up, but they could not find the expert skills required to run the area on second and third shift. Therefore, they purchased a robot to support the area. Unfortunately, it wasn’t plug and play. However, the leaders found a solution as the first shift expert operator focused on programming, configuring, and customizing the robot to work with their manufacturing process. After he got the process working, they were able to changeover on first shift and run “lights out” on second and third shift.

Overnight, they were able to triple their volume in the EDM manufacturing area. The bottleneck quickly dissipated and moved through the sequential departments. Their past due backlog was shipped, and customer service was restored. Although the reason they implemented the robot was to serve customers, it also improved their margins as less cost went into producing the product.

Weld Robots for Industrial Storage Solutions

An industrial storage manufacturer struggled to keep up with customer demands and last-minute order changes/ additions while focusing on maintaining/ minimizing costs and increasing operational efficiencies. As every manufacturer has struggled in the last few years, they also could not find enough high-skilled resources across their sites. Thus, they purchased robots to replace certified welders. Their resources did not have to be certified to use a robot, and they could run small miscellaneous parts around 30% faster, thereby increasing output and meeting customer needs It turned into a win-win-win of less welders required (better utilizing the resources in-house), increased output, and consistent quality products.

Robots in Supply Chain

There are many applications for robots in logistics and supply chain. One of the most popular uses of robots is for automated guided vehicles. Product can be transported to the “right” place at the “right” time without being dependent on people. Again, resources can be better utilized to more value-added tasks. In addition, robots are used for product storage such as automated handling equipment that replaces forklifts. To learn more about these types of advanced technologies and how to utilize them to deliver results, watch our interview on Tech in the Supply Chain.

The Bottom Line

Robots should not replace people. The most successful companies are using robots to supplement people. They can deliver significant results to the customer, the bottom line, and with the basics (safety, quality). Boeing has proven the critical importance of maintaining consistent quality. At the least, the best companies are prioritizing quality and building it into the product. Robots can support these objectives.

Did you like this article?  Continue reading on this topic:
Post Pandemic: People or Robots?