Globalization and eCommerce have hit manufacturers with unprecedented demands for high-mix, low-volume production which will jibe on a whim – the whim of the customer.

Today’s customers want products that suit their needs perfectly. within the food and beverage industry, this suggests offering a spread of meal sizes and swapping in various snack box components. In consumer electronics, people are posing for variations in housing colors, processing speeds, and memory.

To keep up, manufacturers got to embrace flexibility– and robotics is one among the simplest ways to try to so. Robots are reusable, re-deployable assets which will change their programs on the fly, making assembly line changes easier and quicker.

Let’s take a glance at three key ways manufacturers can harness the facility of robotics to spice up operational flexibility.

FOSTER COLLABORATION

Once upon a time, when companies would happily dedicate a whole line to one product type, high-speed robots did most of the work. These robots were great for enhancing throughput, but they weren’t flexible. They were too powerful and fast-moving for operators to securely re-deploy them for brand spanking new tasks, and it had been difficult to reprogram them when quick updates to the system where needed.

Recent advances in robotics include collaborative robots, which are designed to figure in tandem with human operators. They don’t move as quickly as typical Delta and SCARA robots, but they adapt far more easily to new applications. When given the selection between lighting speed and adaptability, manufacturers see more value in flexibility for today’s challenges.

Collaborative robots adapt well because operators can “teach” them new tasks employing a simple hand-guiding mechanism. The teaching functionality is often so intuitive that operators don’t get to consult robot programming experts. Collaborative robots allow manufacturers to profit from their workers’ creativity and expertise while preventing repetitive injuries.

HAVE A VISION

Robots become a way more flexible solution when they’re paired with vision. Built-in vision systems give robotic equipment the power to adapt to multiple variations in products – different sizes, colors, and shapes.

In the past, most robots didn’t use vision. They needed to be programmed to select up specific, pre-determined items in very specific locations. Today’s vision-guided robots can find items through pattern recognition then check colors, barcodes or other identifiers to work out what must be done next.

STAY MOBILE

The old production lines were actually lines, and each work-in-progress would move directly from start to end. Today’s flexible production lines often don’t resemble lines in the least. Instead, they're modular systems that are constantly being rearranged.

This presents a replacement challenge – how can these modular systems stay connected while adapting to constantly changing production requirements? Conveyors are extremely difficult to maneuver, and that they also can block off hallways. If today’s hallway becomes tomorrow’s dead end, workers stray and production slows down considerably.

Fortunately, an innovative robotic solution keeps hallways free amid the constant changeover of modular production lines. Mobile robots transport materials from one area to a different using self-navigating technology. this protects manufacturers from the headache of rearranging heavy conveyors to attach various production stages.

IN SUMMARY

Using vision guidance with collaborative robots and employing mobile robots to move materials across the factory floor can significantly boost a manufacturer’s ability to reply to changing needs while minimizing downtime and keeping production levels high.