Article | February 3, 2022
Inventory management in warehouse is a never-ending cycle till the time the business is in operation. As your business expands, so does the amount of effort and money spent on warehouse inventory management. After all, the more orders you receive, the more time you'll need to spend on inventory replenishment and warehouse organization.
Fortunately, there are several methods to enhance the warehouse inventory management process, from more efficient storage to the use of automation and other solutions that can minimize manual labor, human error, and total expenses.
In this article, we will look at some of the key challenges that manufacturers face while managing their warehouse inventory and their solutions. Furthermore, we see the best practices for optimizing your warehouse inventory management that would ultimately enhance the efficiency of business operations.
Warehousing and Inventory Management Best Practices
Appoint a Warehouse Supervisor
Managing an effective warehouse begins with hiring a qualified manager. Your organization should choose a warehouse manager with substantial expertise in operating a warehouse comparable to the one you will be operating. A skilled warehouse manager ensures that everything runs smoothly. He/she must be organized, knowledgeable about warehouse operations and technology, and function as a quarterback for the warehouse's rest of the team.
Your warehouse manager will monitor your staff to ensure things are correctly scanned and cataloged. Additionally, they will frequently engage with your warehouse inventory management software to keep a bird's eye perspective on your goods. Finally, your warehouse manager will be responsible for handling any inconsistencies or challenges that develop, so that they respond dynamically anytime your warehouse staff discovers a problem. Some attributes to look out for in your warehouse manager are: organizational ability, precision, tech-savvy, safety-mindedness, leadership, integrity, and a sense of calm.
Plan the Warehouse Layout
The structural layout of your warehouse will either assist or limit your warehouse workers' ability to promptly pick, load, and send items out in response to a sale or transfer request. By dividing warehouses into zones or slots and numbering aisles and bins, warehouse employees may more easily navigate the storage facility. While not all warehouses are designed the same way, an organized warehouse is necessary for effective operations. The way you plan your warehouse space will depend on the things you store. For example, a warehouse containing huge machinery may have specialized zones, whereas a warehouse storing small retail products will have bins and aisles.
Optimizing your warehouse plan will not only enhance space utilization but also increase warehouse productivity and save you money. Consequently, this helps you reach your company goals and satisfy your customers with on-time deliveries.
Create a Workflow
Maintaining an efficient inventory control warehouse is critical to avoid bottlenecks and out-of-stock situations. In addition, a streamlined inventory workflow can assist you in keeping your buyers satisfied and convert them into loyal customers. So, how would you establish an efficient workflow?
Here are some helpful warehousing and inventory management suggestions:
Make an attempt to estimate future sales.
Use tools that assess old sales and forecast future sales for you.
Set a minimum production quantity for each product. This helps to avoid losing sales and income due to product shortages.
Set a maximum stock limit. This assists in avoiding overstocking a product, which can result in considerable losses.
Ensure that products are delivered out in the order in which they were received (first in, first out) to maintain product freshness and reduce shelf life.
Use a warehouse inventory management system. This is the simplest and most effective method of maintaining a steady inventory flow.
Invest in Warehouse Inventory Software
A warehouse management system (WMS) is a software solution designed to automate, optimize, and support the operations and activities of a business warehouse. It can automate and simplify a variety of warehouse management operations and maintain a real-time inventory record of all available goods. When goods arrive and depart the warehouse, your warehouse inventory management system will accurately show all inventories and its whereabouts.
Warehouse inventory management software may be configured to automatically replenish stock when a predefined minimum number of items are reached. The finest software analyzes previous sales data automatically to identify the appropriate minimum number for automated reordering. It also determines the minimum quantities at which each product should be replenished.
Warehouse Inventory Challenges and Solutions
Limited Visibility & Solution
Inventory visibility refers to the ability to view and track inventory in real-time. It also helps gain insight into the exact number of units of each SKU in stock at all locations, along with its location within a warehouse or fulfillment center.
When inventory is difficult to identify or find in your warehouse, it can result in incomplete, inaccurate, or delayed shipments. Receiving and locating the correct stock is essential for smooth running warehouse operations as it helps to maintain a positive customer experience.
Solution: To optimize purchasing and receiving operations, increase accuracy, and eliminate missing goods. Including photos with correct product descriptions in your inventory database can also be helpful. Investing in inventory management software is, once again, the best way to overcome low inventory visibility. These systems are meant to automate the process of inventory management across the supply chain, all from a single dashboard. The adoption of digital and data-driven procedures allows businesses to have a comprehensive view of inventory management in warehouse.
Inventory Depletion & Solution
Unsold goods are considered a loss in inventory. Multiple factors contribute to inventory depletion or shrinkage. Sometimes stocks can become obsolete or out-of-date before being sold. In addition, spoilage, damage, or theft are a few other reasons for inventory loss and can be referred to as a serious supply chain issue. Therefore, it is necessary to identify, track, and measure trouble areas.
Solution: Using a third-party logistics (3PL) or fulfillment service (fulfillment solution) increases security. To reduce inventory shrinkage, they'll take the necessary steps to keep your goods secure. They'll provide you with the technology and reports you need to keep an eye on stock levels.
Using an Old Excel Spreadsheet & Solution
The expansion of a company will be hampered if inventory is managed manually using paper-based techniques. A lack of digitalization and an ineffective inventory management procedure yield dismal outcomes when sales volumes rise and inventory increases. It is time to replace excel spreadsheets with newer technologies like business intelligence and to analyze and track large businesses better.
Solution: Having an inventory management system will make the process more efficient and provide you with real-time data. Businesses utilize various inventory management systems, depending on their type of operations. Manual inventory, periodic inventory, and perpetual inventory are three examples of inventory management approaches. Another option is to use one of the several software programs such as Upserve, Megaventory, and Orderhive for inventory management that are currently available on the market.
Warehouse Space Management & Solution
A warehouse layout that facilitates the simple selection, packaging, and shipping of orders is a sign of efficient warehouse space management. Designing a functional warehouse layout is critical since it directly influences the efficiency and productivity of your warehouse. A well-designed warehouse layout enables easy access to stored goods, saves travel time, and increases order fulfillment rates.
Solution: Optimize storage space and inventory flow by utilizing inventory management systems that include warehouse management features. Automate order picking, packaging, and shipping operations by categorizing inventory storage by shelf, bin, and compartment.
Communication Difficulties & Solution
Collaboration and communication are critical in the management of warehouse. Lack of communication in a warehouse can result in disorganized operations, resulting in errors and inefficient processes. In practice, this might imply that stock is misplaced or delayed, resulting in a negative customer experience.
Solution: Warehouse workers should be equipped with phones and radios for one-on-one communication. Mobile devices are the foundation of portable communication, which is critical for warehouse employees who are always on the move. Supervisors and managers must have a PA system, also known as a public address system, to make announcements in an emergency or when loading and unloading goods.
Another option to simplify warehouse operations is to distribute wearable GPS devices to your employees. Using cloud-based software to manage inventory also provides the best solution for checking stock and communicating data across departments.
Warehousing and inventory management affect every step of your e-commerce supply chain, from receiving and storing goods to fulfilling and shipping orders. Poor warehouse inventory management may lead to higher logistics costs, dissatisfied warehouse personnel, more picking and packing errors, delayed shipments, and disappointed customers. However, with some of the best practices mentioned above, you may improve your warehouse inventory management. You can take advantage of the solutions to most of the key challenges listed above.
What are the four ways to control inventory?
The four key ways of controlling inventory are as follows: just-in-time delivery, downloading inventory software, stock control, and lowering carrying costs.
How is inventory management different from warehouse management?
The primary difference between the two systems is the human component. While inventory management is concerned exclusively with merchandise or stock, warehouse management includes the administration of workers as well as shipping or shipping professionals who work in a warehouse setting.
What are the four inventory management types?
Primarily, inventory management is grouped into four types:
Maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) goods
Article | October 27, 2021
Technologies in the manufacturing industry are upscaling daily. Manufacturers are keen to embrace the latest manufacturing trends to improve their manufacturing process, total production rate, and product quality at their factories. Manufacturing technology advances have also boosted production speed while retaining product quality.
“As technology takes over and enhances many of the processes we used to handle with manual labor, we are freed up to use our minds creatively, which leads to bigger and better leaps in innovation and productivity.” – Matt Mong, VP Market Innovation and Project Business Evangelist at Adeaca.
Apart from manufacturing technology developments, we will look at new manufacturing business trends in this article, which will help you achieve maximum customer engagement and a positive relationship with your target consumer groups.
So, let's see some of the top manufacturing business trends that are assisting the industry in improving its business processes.
Manufacturing Business Trends: 2022
Manufacturers must adopt a business procedure that focuses on the target consumer group. Also, incorporating social responsibility and technology into company procedures would be beneficial.
Here are five ways manufacturing leaders are becoming more communicative and results-oriented in their manufacturing and consumer experience strategies.
Deliver a One-of-a-kind Digital Experience
Every industry's target demographic is now online. Manufacturers must use digitalization to interact with their target consumer group to be noticed and remembered. Maintain an active presence on all popular digital platforms used by your target demographic. Post your new products, business strategy, or get genuine customer feedback on your brand and products. Engage your target audience and keep them informed of your progress in making their lives easier.
“Marketing is VERY important to any company, although I generally see it being justified by the number of web hits or ‘leads’ that come in” – John Hays, Director of Sales at BALYO
Allow your clientele to interact with your products digitally. To be a part of the new digital revolution in any industry, create a new digital business model.
Initiative for Ecosystem Partnership
An ecosystem partnership is a network of enterprises working together to provide a product or service to meet changing market needs. A partner ecosystem can generate customer-ready solutions faster. It also helps firms to co-create value. This value is demonstrated in extraordinary customer and partner experiences. The B2B ecosystem partners work together to bring mutual benefits to their companies.
Revenue Generation via Data Monetization
Data monetization allows industrial CIOs (Chief Information Officers) to monetize their digital products and services. Rapid digitization in manufacturing generates massive data. CIOs may monetize and distribute data across ecosystems. CIOs can leverage information as a resource to generate new services or business models. This ensures revenue even when external reasons like supply chain issues or human resource shortages interrupt the firm.
Using the Equipment as a Service (EaaS) Approach
EaaS, or Pay-Per-Use, is defined as: A business model where equipment is rented rather than sold, with remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance solutions offered by the vendor.
Using Eaas reduces capital expense, improves data reliability, and lowers operating costs. As a result, producers can undertake all production-related tasks with precision.
Bosch RexRoth CytroBox – a Perfect Example of EaaS
The global equipment-as-a-service market is estimated to develop at an 11.5 percent CAGR from 2021-2027. (OpenPR)
The RexRoth Cytrobox from Bosch is an example of EAAS. This hydraulic power unit converts electrical power into hydraulic fluid pressure and flow to move and force a machine. They are widely utilized in presses and tooling equipment.
It can handle up to 33 kW in a small space. Its exceptionally flexible; its unique design allows it to run efficiently and quietly. In addition, modern automation and sensor packages allow easy integration into modern machine designs.
Benefits of Bosch RexRoth CytroBox
It provides data insights during the long lifecycles
Using this hydraulic power unit on a lease can save a lot of money which cost $100.000
It requires heavy maintenance cost as per its type of usage that can be avoided with the EaaS approach
Shifting the Emphasis from B2B to B2C
Many firms are moving their attention from B2B to B2C to understand their target consumer better. This new strategic approach helps producers identify market needs and gain real-time feedback on their products. This method helps producers increase profit margins while also controlling the product's interaction with the intended audience.
The latest manufacturing trends will take you to the cutting edge of manufacturing. The manufacturing developments in 2022 will boost the total manufacturing market in the coming years, allowing manufacturers to generate more business revenue.
What is the manufacturing industry's future?
Industry 4.0 is rapid technological progress in production and is transforming the worldwide manufacturing industry. According to bccresearch's market research, the global manufacturing and process control market is predicted to increase from $86.7 billion in 2020 to $117.7 billion in 2025, a CAGR of 6.3 percent.
What is the industry 4.0 technology in the manufacturing industry?
IoT, industrial internet of things (IIoT), Cyber-physical systems (CPS), cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality, and additive manufacturing or 3D printing are some technologies that are used in industry 4.0 factories.
What are the current technology trends in the manufacturing industry?
AI, robots, 3D printing, and the like are all the latest manufacturing trends in manufacturing technology. Additionally, enterprise resource planning (ERP), cloud computing, and machine vision all play a significant part in advanced manufacturing.
"name": "What is the manufacturing industry's future?",
"text": "Industry 4.0 is rapid technological progress in production and is transforming the worldwide manufacturing industry. According to bccresearch's market research, the global manufacturing and process control market is predicted to increase from $86.7 billion in 2020 to $117.7 billion in 2025, a CAGR of 6.3 percent."
"name": "What is the industry 4.0 technology in the manufacturing industry?",
"text": "IoT, industrial internet of things (IIoT), Cyber-physical systems (CPS), cloud computing, artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality, and additive manufacturing or 3D printing are some technologies that are used in industry 4.0 factories."
"name": "What are the current technology trends in the manufacturing industry?",
"text": "AI, robots, 3D printing, and the like are all the latest manufacturing trends in manufacturing technology. Additionally, enterprise resource planning (ERP), cloud computing, and machine vision all play a significant part in advanced manufacturing."
Article | December 10, 2021
The benefits of contract manufacturing are triggering manufacturers to utilize it as a strategy to speed up production and increase revenue. According to BCC Research, the worldwide contract manufacturing industry should increase from $2.0 trillion in 2018 to $2.7 trillion in 2023, a 6.7% CAGR.
Given the growing demand, contract manufacturing has a long way to go in innovating new solutions for manufacturers.
As technology takes over and enhances many of the processes we used to handle with manual labor, we are freed up to use our minds creatively, which leads to bigger and better leaps in innovation and productivity.
– Matt Mong, VP Market Innovation and Project Business Evangelist at Adeaca
Let us look at the benefits and concept of contract manufacturing, often known as manufacturing partners in some circles.
Contract Manufacturing: Concept and Benefits
Contract manufacturing is a business model in which a company agreeswith a contract manufacturer to make components or finished goods based on the hiring company's design. In short, it is a business model in which one company hires another company to manufacture components or goods for them or their products.
The following are some of the primary advantages of contract manufacturing that attract manufacturers to adopt this concept and find a trusted supplier to manufacture any product or part of their product without much difficulty.
Cost Efficiency: In contract manufacturing, companies do not have to pay for the facility, equipment, or labor needed.
Resource Allocations: The money and resources saved through contract manufacturing can be redirected towards other company operations.
Faster Lead Times: Hiring a contract manufacturer reduces manufacturing time. This improves market speed, delivery time, and customer service.
Quality Control: Contract manufacturers are likely to have their own quality control processes in place, which allow them to spot counterfeit or damaged products early on.
Advanced Skill Sets: Companies can benefit from the skills they may not possess, but the contract manufacturer does.
Contract Manufacturing Examples
Here are some examples of contract manufacturing companies that offer manufacturing services to other businesses and work on full-service outside manufacturing projects.
Example 1: Kimball Electronics Group
Kimball Electronics Group provides a comprehensive range of electronics manufacturing services, including engineering, prototyping, testing, electronic data interchange (EDI), new product introduction, and repair depot services. Soldering, assembly, reflow, de-paneling, flux application, inspection, screen printing, testing, and rework are all processes used in their manufacturing.
Example 2: Scapa Healthcare
Scapa Healthcare, headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, provides contract manufacturing services for medical and cosmetic products. Their portfolio of products includes sunscreen, silicone medical adhesives, and innovative materials. Additionally, the organization provides development, packaging, and logistics services.
Things to Consider While Selecting a Contract Manufacturing (CM) Partner
You need to know how to identify the ideal contract manufacturer for your business to accelerate production and produce high-quality items. Below, we've listed some of the most important things to keep in mind while looking for an outsourced manufacturing partner for your company.
Understanding a contract manufacturer's (CM) capabilities in terms of logistics and fulfillment is critical. Is your potential CM able to meet shifting product demands? How to use the CM's services? You may need one or more services from CM for your product, so always examine their capabilities or develop a list of their services and see which ones are valuable for you.
Knowledge or Prerequisite
A qualified, experienced, subject matter expert CM always correctly understands the requirements and delivers the services as per expectations and within the time frame specified in your production schedule. Always inquire about their qualifications or certificates in the places where your product will be manufactured.
Any contract manufacturing plan must have an agreement or compliance clause. Always inquire about the compliance procedure and thoroughly understand the terms and claws to avoid future issues.
Verify your possible contract manufacturer's personnel count. Is it easy to talk to them? Is labor skilled enough to meet the product's goals? It is critical for large-scale production and production, requiring swift responses. Any work force shortage might cause production delays.
Gear & Expertise
Check for machines and equipment as well as human labor in your possible CM. Many CM lease equipment to complete a project. So always check how the CM will organize the essential equipment for your project. Expertise in using the equipment is also necessary. Verify which machines were used and whether or not professionals were involved.
The CM's location is the main factor to check. Because the CM may have numerous plants, knowing which plant is assigned to your product is essential to knowing every aspect of its production. Also, the assembly location must allow you to visit and inspect the manufacturing between cycles.
Finding a reliable contract manufacturer with solid financial backing and market roots is essential to avoid market scams. However, you must also analyze and solve risk factors like equipment failure, supplier capacity, and unreasonable expectations.
Selection Myths of Contract Manufacturing Partner
Once you've produced a list of shortlisted contract manufacturing partners who meet all of the criteria described in the preceding heading, you can proceed by following the steps below to select the best contract manufacturing partner.
Look for Who is Willing to Invest in Your Business
Incorrect. The objective is to find a vendor prepared to manufacture at a loss. A contract manufacturer's strength is that they can stay competitive and make a profit for both parties.
Focus on Tier 1 CM Partners from the Market
This one is indeed not acceptable. Tier 1 is a financial phrase used to separate large corporations from smaller ones. You want a contract manufacturer who understands your business and your needs. Don't worry about the manufacturing partner's size.
Go Ahead with the One Who Offers the Best Services at the Lowest Price
Trying to get the cheapest quote isn't always the best idea. You should get a quote from your contract manufacturing partner, but the quote may not always reveal the complete story. Cost per unit frequently captures approximately 75% of total supply chain cost. Some contract manufacturers charge the OEM the remaining 25%. Consider the complete picture while selecting a CM partner.
Manufacturers use contract manufacturing to meet their commercial goals. Therefore, contract manufacturing is a win-win situation for both industrialists and contract manufacturers. Finding the proper contract manufacturing partner for your company is not straightforward, but our brief guide can help you identify the right manufacturing partner.
What makes a good contract manufacturer?
The most significant contract manufacturing firms are more than just supply chain partners. They recognize and treat your items as if they were their own, are meticulous in their operations, and are concerned with quality and capital.
What differentiates contract manufacturing from outsourcing?
A contract is a legally binding arrangement. It involves two or more parties. For example, outsourcing is outsourcing some tasks to an outside organization under a contract agreed upon by both parties.
What's the difference between contract manufacturing and licensing?
Contract manufacturing only outsources production phases, while licensing is far more complex. In return for fees, a corporation sells the right to utilize its intellectual property to another company. Licenses are like franchises.
"name": "What makes a good contract manufacturer?",
"text": "The most significant contract manufacturing firms are more than just supply chain partners. They recognize and treat your items as if they were their own, are meticulous in their operations, and are concerned with quality and capital."
"name": "What differentiates contract manufacturing from outsourcing?",
"text": "A contract is a legally binding arrangement. It involves two or more parties. For example, outsourcing is outsourcing some tasks to an outside organization under a contract agreed upon by both parties."
"name": "What's the difference between contract manufacturing and licensing?",
"text": "Contract manufacturing only outsources production phases, while licensing is far more complex. In return for fees, a corporation sells the right to utilize its intellectual property to another company. Licenses are like franchises."
Article | December 10, 2021
A new form of robot is entering manufacturing plants all around the globe. Instead of being locked away in their own work cell, collaborative robots work side by side with their human counterparts. Together, they form the manufacturing crew of the future.
Collaborative robots, or cobots, are more flexible, easy to use, and safer than industrial robots. Instead of ending up abandoned in a corner, they are proving to be serious expansions of production capacity leading to better ways of creating superior quality products.
1.1 A New Breed of Bot
Cobots are a new type of automation product with their own ISO standards for safety and usability. For a robot to qualify as a cobot, it has to be used for tasks of a collaborative nature while sharing all or part of its reach space with human operators. So it is not the product alone that classifies it as a cobot.
Industrial robots must be expertly programmed for one specific job along the production line. This requires hard line coding and endless tweaking and testing, which together with other factors make for a sizable upfront investment. Not so with collaborative robots.
Cobots may look similar to traditional robots in some ways, but they are much easier to install and program. This foregoes the need to cooperate with a robotic integration service. Their lightweight and friendly form factor lets manufacturers conveniently relocate them on the shopfloor from one project to another.
This renders the robotics technology perfect for a data-driven, Industry 4.0 work environment. Cobots can side with traditional machinery and additive manufacturing equipment, aided by artificial intelligence and cloud connectivity while embedded in a networked environment rich with smart sensors and mixed reality interfaces.
1.2 A Unique Blend of Benefits
Because it is fairly straightforward to reprogram a cobot to various tasks, they are perfect for high-mix, low-volume work to meet the rising demand for ultra-customized products.
They can also do multiple tasks in unison, such as alternatingly loading a machine and finishing parts from the previous cycle. Here are some other advantages in addition to flexibility:
• Low investment. Cobots typically cost a fraction of the price of an industrial robot, but they offer much lower payload and reach. ROI is typically one to two years.
• Safety. With rounded surfaces, force-limited joints, and advanced vision systems, cobots are exceptionally safe. This reduces the risk of injury due to impact, crushing, and pinching. Driverless transport systems are wheeled mobile robots that immediately halt when their lasers detect the presence of a nearby human being.
• Accuracy. Cobots score well on accuracy with 0.1mm precision or well below that. While they do typically sacrifice speed, dual-mode cobots can be converted to fully-fledged tools of mass production that run at full speed in their own safeguarded space.
• Easy to program. Many brands offer user-friendly programming interfaces from beginner to expert level. This reduces the need for continuous availability of expensive and scarce expertise while giving current employees an incentive to upskill. And because they can be deployed within hours, cobots can be leased for temporary projects.
• Research. Small processing plants, agile start-ups, and schools can invest in cobots to experiment with ways to automate processes before committing to full automation.
1.3 Cobot Activity Repertoire
Cobots are perfect candidates for taking over strenuous, dirty, difficult, or dull jobs previously handled by human workers. This relieves their human co-workers from risk of repetitive strain injury, muscle fatigue, and back problems. They can also increase job satisfaction and ultimately a better retirement.
The cobot’s program of responsibilities includes:
• Production tasks such as lathing, wire EDM, and sheet stamping.
• Welding, brazing, and soldering.
• Precision mounting of components and fasteners, and applying adhesive in various stages of general assembly.
• Part post-finishing such as hole drilling, deburring, edge trimming, deflashing, sanding, and polishing.
• Loading and unloading traditional equipment such as CNC and injection molding machines, and operating it using a control panel to drastically reduce cycle times.
• Post-inspection such as damage detection, electronic circuit board testing, and checking for circularity or planarity tolerances.
• Box-packing, wrapping, and palletizing.
• Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) assist with internal transport and inventory management.
1.4 No-Code Programming
While an industrial robot requires the attention of a high-paid robotics engineer, anyone with basic programming savviness can install and maintain a collaborative unit.
Brands are releasing more and more kits for quick installation and specific use cases. Instead of being all numbers and line-coding, current user interaction is exceptionally people-focused.
At the lowest skill level, lead-through programming lets operators physically guide the cobot’s end-of-arm-tool (EOAT) through the desired motion path, after which it will flawlessly replicate the instructed behaviour.
It is also possible to enter desired waypoints as coordinates. At the highest level, it is of course still possible to have full scripting control.
An intermediate step is visual programming interfaces. These let users create blocks of functionality that they can string together into more advanced action sequences, while entering the appropriate parameters for each function such as gripping strength, screwing tightness, or pressing force.
These UIs come in the form of in-browser or mobile apps.
Based on a 3D-CAD model of the machine and its industrial environment, a digital twin of the cobot can simulate and optimize its operations, for example to prevent collisions.
It also lets operators remotely monitor and adjust the machine while it’s running. All the while, back-end artificial intelligence can do its analyses to find further efficiency improvements.
3D models of the to-be-manufactured product can be imported for edge extraction of complex surfaces. These will then be converted into the cobot’s desired movement trajectories instead of tedious manual programming.
This makes them feasible to implement for highly dexterous tasks like welding curved hydroformed metal parts or sanding and polishing the most intricate of 3D printed geometries.
Interfacing directly with the robot is becoming increasingly human-centered as well. Future cobots will respond to voice interaction as well as touch input, eradicating the screens-and-buttons paradigm of current devices.
Some brands are giving the cobot a face with emotional expressions, hoping to lower the barrier to adoption. The upcoming generation of cobots can even respond to body language, as well as show its intentions by projecting light to where they are about to reach or move next.
1.5 A Human World
Ultimately, the objective of any company is to create value for people. It is not an option to completely remove humans from the shop floor in an attempt to stay at the forefront of innovation.
Attempting to leap to full automation and the utopian “lights-out factory” does not work anyway, as automotive giants such as Ford, Chrysler, GM, and Tesla can testify. A significant portion of human employees will indeed need to give up their roles. On the other hand, improved productivity levels open up space to retain personnel and uplift them to more creative, managerial, analytical, social, or overall more enjoyable jobs.
For certain tasks, humans still need to be kept inside the manufacturing loop. For example:
• Complex assembly routines and handling of flexible components.
• Large vehicle subassemblies contain many variable components and require more hand-eye coordination than one cobot can handle. Humans are needed to make sure everything lands in the right position while the cobot provides assistive muscle power.
• Fashion, footwear, jewellery, art pieces, and other products where creation borders on artistry rather than mechanical assembly require the aesthetic eye of humans. People are also needed to spot aesthetic deficiencies in custom one-offs in order to correspond with customers before finishing the production batch.
• While intelligent automation software can spot bottlenecks in efficiency, humans are required for creative problem solving and context-awareness to make decisions. A spirit of flexibility and innovation is just as important as the accuracy of perfect repetitions.
1.6 Mission: Install a Cobot
Cobots have numerous advantages over industrial solutions or people-only workspaces. They enable faster, more precise, and more sophisticated operations while reducing downtime and maintaining employee satisfaction.
Low-voltage operation and reduced material waste fits with sustainable innovation and corporate social responsibility programs.
Many companies are reporting surges in production capacity and staff generally experience the presence of cobots as favorable. For example, industry leviathans like BMW and Mercedes-Benz are reaching the conclusion that in many parts of the production process implementing a cobot has been the right decision.
Connecting all parts of the production line with full automation solutions is a pipedream. It works only when all steps are perfectly attuned, and in reality this never happens and one misstep can be catastrophic.
Whether to hire a human, a robot, or a co-robot is a complex and ever-more pressing decision. Statistical process control is paramount for large organizations to make unbiased data-driven decisions.
Determine the key performance indicators, then find the most critical bottlenecks and major opportunities for leaps in production efficiency, product quality, or staff unburdening.
Talk to employees for their insights and probe their level of skill and enthusiasm needed for working with their new artificial assistants. Digital transformation should be an exciting shift in the organization and its people, so apply new technological advancements only where it makes sense.
Despite common beliefs about robotization, the cobot is an entirely separate product category that can be a surprisingly plug-and-play solution for simple tasks, with programming apps becoming increasingly intuitive.
A cobot’s flexibility makes it perfect to run early experiments to help companies find its best spot on the factory floor. Its unbelievable precision, consistency, and level of control generally can make a strong first impression on customers.
Not only can cobots increase production capacity while reducing idle time and cycle time to accelerate manufacturing across many vertical markets, but they also enrich the work environment resulting in happier and more involved employees.
For many companies, a cobot can be the next logical step in their digital transformation.