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Keep the human element in mind when choosing robots

David Troeter Vice President, Yaskawa Support Services at Yaskawa America, Inc. – Motoman Robotics Division
By David Troeter Vice President, Yaskawa Support Services , Yaskawa America, Inc. – Motoman Robotics Division

FIELD INTELLIGENCE: Smart Processes, Solutions & Strategies

As advanced automation and digitization permeate the industrial landscape, tech-savvy companies are striving to create value-added products that foster growth for customers. This has led to unique developments, including three-dimensional solutions that intertwine smart technologies with the human element to maximize productivity and enable the next generation of factory automation.

Subsequently, manufacturers are adopting automation strategies to implement analytics, additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence and robotics.

While investing in applicable technologies is ideal for helping companies optimize production output, withstand market pressures and achieve tangible outcomes, a dichotomy between existing worker skillsets and the knowledge needed to operate a growing population of interconnected robots, conveyors, sensors and more, often exits.

As part of a realistic robotic automation strategy, manufacturers should backstop the human element by relying on diverse support services for comprehensive technical assistance. Often overshadowed by factors like equipment costs and floorspace availability, upfront consideration for aftermarket care when choosing a robotic supplier is of vital importance. Key components of diverse support services include:

  • Technical support through online how-to videos and via a 24/7 hotline with expert coverage.
  • Field service with 24/7 dispatch by factory-trained technicians to minimize downtime. Regionally located techs are ideal for offering rapid on-site support for programming maintenance, repairs and system audits.
  • Parts availability for emergency situations: 24/7 emergency parts availability with a high “first pass fill rate” is best for mitigating downtime. A 12-month warranty on all parts, as well as spare parts packages and volume support packages are also helpful.
  • Training from a robot supplier that offers IACET (International Association for Continuing Education and Training) accreditation courses at hands-on facilities with application-specific classrooms. Access to remote on-site training is beneficial, as well. Either way, a program that has a 95-100 percent customer satisfaction rate is ideal.
  • Repair and retrofit modernization options that bring aging robots and technology up to current standards. These should include system upgrades, robot rebuilds, repairs, retrofits, core exchange programs and certified pre-owned robots.
  • Lifecycle management that uses factory automation monitoring platforms to easily monitor, accumulate and visually deliver data in real time via an integrated approach, providing the ability to synchronize all factory and operational knowledge for data-driven optimized planning.

This gives companies the flexibility needed to oversee the health, status and performance of networked production environments. Ideally, systems of this nature should allow the incorporation of non-robot devices through add-on functions, and they should also permit the forwarding of process data to external resources for utilization of AI-based Big Data analytics using a standard Open Platform Communication Unified Architecture (OPC-UA) interface.

Whether a manufacturer is looking to buy one robot or hundreds, partnering with a robot firm that seeks to nurture a long-term customer relationship at every stage of the project lifecycle is recommended. The availability of diverse support services is instrumental in realizing anticipated productivity gains.

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