Guide: How to Get Started With Robots (1)

Søren Peter Johansen

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Guide: How to Get Started With Robots (1)

Robots are creating remarkable growth in all the manufacturing companies that are willing to jump on board the automation train. But even though sales of this new, ground-breaking production technology are increasing, only around 30 percent of the production processes in the Danish manufacturing businesses are automated, and one cannot help but ask: Why are we not seeing a higher level of automation in Denmark and other high-salary countries?

The Danish Technological Institute (DTI) has, through their work and contacts with large numbers of production companies, identified three main factors that come between companies and the gains from automation. The three factors are: Lack of time, lack of skills and lack of technology.

Therefore DTI will focus on how to overcome these obstacles and increase your company's productivity and thereby secure your future existence in a globally competitive market place.

Two cavemen are struggling with a cart full of rocks which has square wheels. A third man appears and offers a set of round wheels, but the two cavemen decline and assert that they do not have the time. The analogy is put forward by Technology Manager Søren Peter Johansen from The Danish Technological Institute, who thinks the picture puts the discussion in the right prospective.

- To say no to a production robot is the same as saying no to round wheels on your wagon. Even though square wheels may work for a period of time, you will undeniably be outpaced, if you don't take the time to change the wheels, he says.

In relation to this time barrier, DTI gives three tips to get you started on robots and automation.

1. Set aside time and get to work
This is central. You have to prioritize the time to automate. You are basically forced to do so if you aim to survive.

But how can this be achieved?

Revealing  the advantages to be gained can be the key to making automation climb the company's priority list. Try to identify what it means for your company - which cost savings can you achieve, which new customers will you be able to reach (thanks to higher quality and traceability for example)? Here it can be worth your while to seek out experienced counsel. There are also online tools that can give you a glimpse of the potential - for example The Robot Investment Tool that was recently released in a beta version.

Another effective method of making the robots become a prioritized focus is by looking at the risks of not investing in them. There is another tool in the pipeline that will be able to map how your automation compares with similar companies.

When you finally get ready to begin the automation process, you can start by loaning, renting or buying a robot. Acknowledge and accept that it takes time. Make room for beginner's errors, because every time you fail, you learn a lot. Perhaps isolate a development team from the day-to-day operation.

2.  Try some feasibility studies
Analyze the task and test the difficult elements before investing in the whole process. There might be a very small sub-component in a larger automation process that makes the whole thing fail. You have to spot that as early as possible. It will saves you a valuable amount of time in the long run. Maybe you realize that there is a process that you actually shouldn't automate - or that you can do it in another way. Especially here it can make sense to start by renting a robot, thus providing the opportunity to test things carefully without needing as much initial investment.

3. Team up with a partner
If you want the right solution from the beginning, we recommend that you team up with an experienced partner. This way you avoid starting from scratch and spending unnecessary time, which is exactly what you want to avoid. Instead you can keep your focus on creating better products.

Consider carefully which technologies you need. Be aware of existing standard equipment which could solve your challenge. And if standard equipment won't work, it is a good idea to ask your supplier if they have experience with similar cases.