Five ways to drive ROI from personnel and cobot investments

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Design World  – In this article, we detail how assembly, packaging, and machine-tool OEMs can keep senior plant personnel in charge of the most demanding and intricate tasks — and relegate everything else to pre-programmed work routines and automated workcells. Such approaches make copious use of cobots and augmented reality (AR) tools.

By Tim LeCrone • Director of Research, Development, and Customer Outreach | PBC Linear • Applied Cobotics
Elisabeth Eitel • Executive Editor | Design World

The ultimate question for today’s plant managers is this: How should an organization protect the valuable time of its most seasoned machine operators and engineers by keeping them on sophisticated tasks — and leverage complementary tools such as collaborative robots (cobots) and augmented reality (AR) to delegate everything else?

Both cobotics and AR tools help manufacturers match employees with tasks that best fit individual skillsets — to leverage the full promise of the Factory of the Future. To illustrate, cobots can act as a support for seasoned employees — freeing them to simultaneously tend multiple machines. AR tools can guide new hires through complicated but well-defined routines for autonomy and efficient on-the-job learning.

Following are five ways to identify application tasks where cobotics and AR tools make the most sense — and maximize returns on investment (ROI) for new purchases of these technologies.

“AR-based training tools can help attract, onboard, and retain new hires even fresh out of high school. That’s especially important for the machine-tool industry and related fields that currently face shortages of vocationally trained talent”

Tim LeCrone, Director of Research, Development, and Customer Outreach | PBC Linear

1. Run employee productivity calculations

All business operations should have in place some way of quantifying employee productivity. In industrial and manufacturing settings, this typically takes the form of simply tracking revenue or (especially in larger companies) counting the routines or workpieces output (sans flaws) completed per day or hour. Read full article >

2. Determine where cobot ROI won’t and will be impressive

Cobots have become exceptionally practical over the last few years. However, there’s a big difference between purchasing a cobot arm and fully integrating that arm into factory operations. What workcells should get cobot arms first? What functions should they assume? As with any technology for captive plant use, cobots yield the highest ROI when they’re targeted to the most appropriate applications … and complemented by automated modules and software-driven tools. Read full article >

3. Boost ROI with AR for installation, training, and onboarding

Augmented reality or AR is another tool to complement collaborative personnel-technology settings — namely by:

  • Helping plant managers leverage the knowledge of suppliers to install and configure a new cobot installation in mere hours

  • Training longtime personnel as well as new hires on how to work alongside automated cobot-based designs

  • Helping plant operations avoid the wastefulness of duplicating efforts — especially in adjusting workcell settings and training new hires.

Read full article >

4. Quantify the total price of cobot and AR adoption

Calculating ROI for any workcell enhancement (including that with robotic operation or AR guidance) should also consider estimated costs relating to:

  • Engineering and plant-floor reconfiguration efforts

  • Workcell downtime and integration

  • Safety-certification costs

  • Programming and personnel training costs.

Read full article >

5. Leverage AR-assisted quality control

Many tasks (especially those associated with quality control) are still most efficiently and reliably done manually. That could change over the next few years — though not anytime in the immediate future for small and midsize companies. As mentioned earlier in this article, the cost of machine-vision programming and hardware for these tasks remains prohibitively expensive for many operations. Read full article >

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