With a first robotic cell deployment, positive response to the project should be a primary objective along with bottom line return on investment numbers. Your first project is an opportunity to dispel myths and show truths regarding safety, job security, programming ease, and other concerns. By implementing a robotic cell that’s safe, that frees people up for other value-added work, and that does what it’s supposed to do without requiring excessive programming expertise, you’ll gain enthusiasm for future projects.
How do you set the first project up for success? Keep it simple. The book Lean Robotics – A Guide to Making Robots Work in Your Factory advises, “if you need to choose between a simple, low-ROI application and a complex, high-ROI one, it’s best to go with the simple one… Far better to start simple, and make sure the first cell deployment is a success, so you can start creating value with it while building momentum for more ambitious future projects.”
This article presents three ways to set your first robotic cell project up for success.
1. Stay on a well-travelled path
For your first project, it’s a good idea to implement a solution that’s been done before and proven. An application where the process or path is well-travelled, and you’re not trying to navigate unmapped territory can make the project move much more smoothly. Pick-and-place and machine tending are popular operations for collaborative robots, and good candidates for first projects.
Simple doesn’t mean unimpressive. This case study describes how one machine shop implemented a simple vision system that doubled its production capacity. Operations that require vision capabilities used to be complicated, but they are now much more straightforward thanks to easy-to-use vision systems like the Plug & Play Wrist Camera from Robotiq.
2. Leave the nice-to-have features out of phase I
Getting phase I up and running as quickly as possible with no unnecessary extras will improve your chances of finishing on time and not having any unexpected, needless delays. Some extra features such as alerts can be fairly easy to implement, and could be included in phase II of the same project. Other nice-to-haves are best left for an upcoming, more aggressive implementation. Keep your essentials list as streamlined as possible, following the lean robotics principles of providing value.
Another way to think of avoiding over-reaching with features is comparing the scope to an orienteering race where you score points for each destination you reach, but you incur huge penalties for every minute you’re late returning to the finish line. Those extra, nice-to-have objectives aren’t worth pursuing if they end up losing points by making you late. Every day a cell isn’t producing due to project delays is a huge setback for your project.
3. Set yourself up to succeed quickly
“Set yourself up to succeed” is a positive way to say “fail fast.” It doesn’t mean rush the project; instead, choose a first deployment with a short enough timeline that you can quickly maneuver back on track instead of trying to re-navigate a massive undertaking. Think speedboat, not ocean liner. This case study describes a one-week integration of a machine-tending application.
With the first deployment, it’s critical to be on time and execute smoothly. You’re trying to show the ability of your team to implement a robotic cell, and to show a solid ROI with the potential for even more ROI in future projects. After the first robotic cell is up and running you’ll have a stronger foundation to expand your scope.
Demonstrating safety in action can relieve a lot of fear and worry. Before having the opportunity to see collaborative robots for themselves, people don’t know how safe they can be. Your first project is a showcase of real-world safety. Word will spread about how slowly the robot moves or how it stops, and people will relax.
For more information about successfully implementing a robotic cell using lean robotics principles, visit leanrobotics.org.