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How Long Does It Take to Launch Lean Robotics?

Alex Owen-Hill
by Alex Owen-Hill. Last updated on Oct 17, 2017 7:00 AM
Posted on Oct 17, 2017 7:00 AM

How quickly can you launch Lean Robotics? A day? Six months? Here's how to make it quicker.

If you've heard about Lean Robotics, you may be wondering how long it takes to implement (if you haven't heard of Lean Robotics yet, check out leanrobotics.org).

You want to know how much time and effort it's going to take to get robots off the ground, right?

Will it take two months? Six months? A year? Ten years?

It's a great question and it may be hard to get a straight answer from anyone who has implemented robots before. Even if you do get some straight answers, they may be wildly different between businesses.

Take the example of Lean Manufacturing (which Lean Robotics is partly based on). Some people will say it takes one or two years to implement Lean, others say you can see results in six months. The Agamus Consult Automotive Lean Production study, says that it takes a whole ten years to fully integrate Lean into a business. Does Lean Robotics take that long? The short answer is no, it doesn't take a long time to launch Lean Robotics

In our RUC conference, attendees were able to deploy it in just 24 hours. In most real-world situations, you can see the results of Lean Robotics in a matter of months. But, only if you are smart about how you do it and make sure that you don't waste time.

The Short and Long Term to Launch Lean Robotics

There are two ways you can look at Lean Robotics: in terms of short term deployment and in terms of long term culture change.

Short Term Robot Cell Deployment Time

When you ask me "How long does it take to launch Lean Robotics?" you are probably thinking about the short term cell deployment. You want to know how long it will be until you have a working robot in your business.

For a very simple robot cell, this could theoretically be as little as a week or so. However, you would have to be very lucky and your robot would already have to be in the post. More commonly, it will take a few months to go from nothing to a working robot cell.

However, this time frame is largely within your control. If you waste time, the robot cell deployment can take much longer. That's why the most important part of this article is still to come — I'm going to show how can you reduce the time you waste during your robot cell deployment.

Long Term Lean Culture Change

As with Lean Manufacturing, Lean Robotics is really centered around a culture change in your business. This type of change takes time.

If you were to ask me "When will I be finished implementing Lean Robotics?" I would say "never". The concept of Lean is a continual process of improvement. When you have finished one robot deployment, you are already looking for ways that you can improve your cell or add other robots elsewhere in the manufacturing line.

Start the Timer Now

Are you seriously considering implementing Lean Robotics?

If your answer is "yes" then start by doing the following: Note down the date and time now.

This date you've just written down is your start time for Lean Robotics. When your robot cell is working and you are starting to see results only then can you "stop the timer."

From now on, your goal should be to waste as little time as possible until your robot is operating.

But what do I mean by waste?

How to Reduce the Time It Takes to Launch Lean Robotics

We often think of "waste" as being the resources lost when the manufacturing line is running. However, waste happens at every stage of robot cell deployment.

Lean Robotics splits robot cell deployment into three phases: Design, Integrate and Operate. It is a mistake to only consider waste during the Operate phase, but this is what most people do. Waste starts affecting your deployment as soon as you start planning for robots — i.e. right now!

If you want to shorten the time it takes you to implement Lean Robotics, focus on reducing the following wastes.

The 10 Wastes of Lean Robotics

There are three major categories of waste in Lean Robotics. Here is how they affect the Design and Integrate phases:

  1. Mura (unevenness or lack of flow) — An example of mura waste during Design and Integrate phases is when the person in charge of the robot deployment (probably yourself) is frequently called away from the work to perform other tasks on the shop floor. This leads to a lack of consistency in the deployment and often long delays.
  2. Muri (overburdening people or processes) — This one you can probably relate to. If you are solely responsible for deploying the robot, you will take on most of the work in the early phases. This can mean that you become overwhelmed by work.
  3. Muda (non-value-added work) — This work which does not add value to the end customer. During the Design and Integrate phases there are a lot of muda wastes because the robot is not operating so cannot perform value-added work. There are 8 different types of muda.

Here are some examples of muda wastes during the Design and/or Integrate phases:

  1. Transport — During the Integrate phase, a lot of time will be lost transporting the robot cell's components, e.g. when you are waiting to receive them from the manufacturer.
  2. Inventory — This waste means storing more raw materials or Work in Progress than necessary. Usually it turns up during the Operate phase. However, you could see it during the earlier phases in some cases. For example, if you expect that the robot will increase your production capacity and start building up inventory too early.
  3. Motion — During the Design phase, you might walk around the shop floor several times when judging which task to automate. Although this may be necessary, it's still counted as a waste.
  4. Waiting — Lots of time will be lost waiting during the early phases of robot cell deployment, e.g waiting for coworkers to get back to you with answers to your questions, waiting for robot suppliers to run tests, etc.
  5. Over-Processing — This waste refers to adding more value than the customer requires. As the robot is not producing anything yet, you probably won't see this waste until the Operate phase.
  6. Overproduction — This waste means making too much product, which results in excessive inventory and storage costs. As with Inventory waste, this could happen if the rest of the manufacturing line produces too much product before the robot cell is ready for it.
  7. Defects — During the Integrate phase, you may find that parts of the robot are defect and need to be replaced. This leads to wasted time, both in the time it takes you to realize the parts are wasted and as you wait for the replacements.
  8. Underutilizing Human Potential — This waste occurs when team members are capable of making greater contributions but are prevented from doing so because of other tasks they need to perform. It can happen during both the Design and Integrate phases if you have team members who could help with the robot cell deployment but are held back from doing so by their other duties.

If you minimize these wastes, you can be sure that Lean Robotics will be up and running in no time!

Where to Find Out More About Lean Robotics

Lean Robotics is a specific application of Lean concepts to make sure your robot cell deployment is a success.

You can learn more about Lean Robotics by going to leanrobotics.org and get your own copy of the book for free!

Get the book on amazon.com

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Alex Owen-Hill
Written by Alex Owen-Hill
Alex Owen-Hill is a freelance writer and public speaker who blogs about a large range of topics, including science, presentation skills at CreateClarifyArticulate.com, storytelling and (of course) robotics. He completed a PhD in Telerobotics from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid as part of the PURESAFE project, in collaboration with CERN. As a recovering academic, he maintains a firm foot in the robotics world by blogging about industrial robotics.
Connect with the writer:
http://alexowenhill.co.uk/