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Meet Your Lean Robotics Team

Emmet Cole
by Emmet Cole on Feb 13, 2018 7:00:00 AM


You're ready to put your Lean Robotics Team together, but what are the key roles and who should take responsibility for which tasks? Find out here... 

Robot cells can't design and deploy themselves... yet.

So, if you want to deploy a robot cell, you'll have to assemble a Lean Robotics team to put the project together. This post outlines the different roles and responsibilities involved in any Lean Robotics project and should answer most of your questions about the key roles and who should take responsibility for the different tasks involved. 

[By the way, throughout this post, you will find 6 pictures of different teams. One of them shows a real Lean Robotics Team and the others do not. If you can pick out the right Pic, you're going to find Lean Robotics a cinch. Answer at the bottom of the post.]  

 

magnificent-seven-poster.jpgQuiz Pic 1.  

The roles we're about to look at are somewhat flexible, but the responsibilities are not. 

For example, there is likely to be some overlap between roles, especially in smaller manufacturing facilities, where it's not uncommon for one person to take on several of the roles outlined below. 

fc-barcelona-1460997848-800.jpgQuiz Pic 2. 

Teams of various sizes will create, deploy, and maintain robot manufacturing cells.

This was the case during our 24-Hour Workshop Challenge earlier this year, where the winning team had nine members. Other teams (one with 6 members) came close, showing that there is no one-size fits all. As long as all the tasks and responsibilities are carried out correctly and the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are met, the team's size is of secondary importance. 

 

 

As the 24-Hour Workshop Challenge proved, once your Lean Robotics Team has been assembled and responsibilities assigned, people can quickly start working on their part of the project. Of the 8 teams that participated, just one was unable to successfully produce parts within the 24 hour time period. Imagine what you could achieve in a week or a month! 

   Note: Remember not to assign critical deployment tasks to people who are already 100% dedicated to other important projects in your factory. Be realistic about how many tasks each team member can take on. No matter how big or small your organization is, you might need to consider bringing in new people.      

 

f-erd88N.jpgQuiz Pic 3.

Let's get started...

Manufacturing manager

The Manufacturing Manager's mission is to align the robot deployment project with the company’s objectives.

Responsibilities include:
Providing the project team with necessary resources
Showing leadership to keep the team on track
Communicating news of the project to everyone in the factory

Introducing a robot cell involves more than penning a group email and sending it to all your manufacturing staff informing them that a new robot will be installed in the facility on a particular date.

Manufacturing Managers also need to communicate the ways in which the robot cell(s) will benefit the entire company, from improved safety and freeing humans to work on more interesting tasks to increasing efficiency and profits. Failure to communicate these benefits can lead to misconceptions and unnecessary problems.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) for Manufacturing Managers are wide-ranging. In fact, their KPIs include all of the manufacturing KPIs impacted by the project.  


Project leader

The Project Leader's primary mission is to define the robot cell deployment's project’s scope and requirements.

This involves:
Defining which manual cell to automate and why
Defining a) which metrics should be improved, b) the cell’s target specifications, and c) the minimum viable cell
Monitoring the cell’s productivity once in operation

The Project Leader's KPIs kick into action once your lean robotics cell is up and running and include all of the Robotic
cell’s KPIs.

Sometimes the importance of the Project Leader's role is underestimated. This is a mistake.

Introducing a robot (especially if it's the first robot in your company) requires innovation and change. With this is mind, it's important that the Project Leader can provide strong leadership in both the technical and managerial spheres.

Challenge Winners 1-2.jpgQuiz Pic 4 

Project coordinator

The Project Coordinator's job is to ensure that the robot cell deployment is done on spec, on time, and on budget. 

This role involves:
Managing project resources
Facilitating communication between the project team and other teams in the factory
Scheduling the different integration phases

The Project Coordinator's performance is measured by whether they completed the project within budget, kept to the project schedule, and whether the project targets were met or not. 

Engineer

The Engineer's primary mission is to design a robotic cell that meets requirements.

This begins with the Engineer documenting the current manual process and constraints. The next step involves developing robotic cells concepts and calculating Return on Investment.

Next, the Engineer is also responsible for designing the cell, and listing the materials required to build the cell (along with their cost). Then the Engineer will test components and build a prototype. Once this has been completed, the Engineer documents the final cell and is responsibe for helping to develop training materials for operations and maintenance workers.

The Engineer's KPIs include successfully developing, prototyping, and testing a robotic cell that meets all requirements and doing so within the engineering schedule and budget. 

1412004475325_wps_84_dmvidpics_2014_09_29pic4_.jpgQuiz Pic 5 

Installer

The Installer's objective is to assemble robotic cell components. (In smaller companies, this work will often be completed by the Engineer.)

The Installer's responsibilities include:

Assembling the (initially) freestanding robotic cell
Performing mechanical and electrical installation
Installing the robotic cell on the production line

The Installer's KPIs are, first, that the cell is fully installed and ready for programming and second, that The Installer has completed their work on schedule and within budget. 

Programmer

The Programmer's primary mission is to ensure that the robot is programmed as intended.

To achieve this, The Programmer has to:  
Ensure that their code meets standards for clarity and readability
Define levels of access to the robot’s program (setting permissions)
Set up an effective communications interface between the robotic cell and other machines so they can communicate
Provide program documentation
Back up the system

KPIs include code that peforms reliably and efficiently and that The Programmer completed their work on time and within budget.

Operation and maintenance worker

The Operation and Maintenance Worker will, in most companies, spend more time with the robotic cell than any other employee, so it's always good to have these colleagues involved right from the beginning of the project.

The Operation and Maintenance Worker's primary mission is to operate and maintain a productive robotic cell. This involves everything from day-to-day running of the cell and troubleshooting problems through to logging issues, providing feedback to the rest of the team and bringing unresolved problems to the attention of the Project Leader. The Operation and Maintenance Worker is also expected to carry out both preventative and reactive maintenance tasks.

KPI in this case is the overall productivity of the robotic cell.

1200px-Frauenwald,_Hundeschlittenrennen,_6.jpgQuiz Pic 6 

Process advisor

The Process Advisor's job is to ensure that the robotic cell process meets or exceeds quality standards and to advise the Engineer and the Programmer on the process to be completed.

The Process Advisor pays particular attention to small, value-added parts of existing processes (such as welding or polishing) that could easily be overlooked. The Process Advisor is responsible for gathering as much detailed information as possible from manual cell operators at the company.

Note: the best Process Advisors are often the people currently operate your existing (pre-automated) manual cell.

Process quality measures serve as a natural and useful KPI for this role. 

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You will also need to assign procurement responsibilities to a member of the team. This person will be responsible for ensuring that purchases are received on time, for the right price, and that they are properly stored.

Finally, you should assign some or all of your team members to take responsibility for continuous improvement of the robotic cell over time. This group should work together to identify potential improvements and coordinate improvement projects. 

Quiz: The correct answer is Pic 4., which shows the winners of the 2017 Workshop Challenge. Find out more about them here

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Emmet Cole
Written by Emmet Cole
A freelance robotics writer since 2006, Emmet is an Economist contributor, and a regular contributor to Robotics Business Review and Robotics Trends. His writing on robots has also appeared in Wired, BBC Future, BBC Focus magazine, Space Quarterly, and numerous other outlets.
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