You’ll be forgiven for thinking about the large robotic arms used in the automotive industry if you were asked to describe what an industrial robot is or does. However, times have changed and today’s industrial robot is more than a machine. The introduction of smaller, cheaper, and more versatile industrial robots to the market has allowed SMEs to automate and become more competitive.
If you are an SME and still relying on traditional labor or conventional mechanical machinery, then you might just be missing out on an industry trend bound to shift the ground in the coming years. Gone are the times when automating meant high initial investments and operational costs. Industrial robots are now cheaper and more versatile than ever and they are made for the SME.
There are many reasons why today’s SME manufacturers should embrace these new, multifunctional industrial robots besides the obvious ones like reduced costs. Here are some of them:
Low Operational Costs- It’s No Longer Busines As Usual
In case you missed it, today’s SME robot is smaller, cheaper to run, and made to be used for more than one function. This is especially true where modern collaborative robot arms have been deployed.
SME collaborative robots and even those that are not collaborative are way cheaper to run by design than traditional robots. You will find them in small machining shops, food processing factories, small pharmaceutical plants, material handling warehouses, etc.
As compared to traditional robots, SME robots are significantly smaller and more efficient to run because they use the latest technologies in design and operation. In the case of collaborative SME robots, they can be installed without the need for expensive safety fencing, setups, and complicated programming. You certainly won’t require highly trained robotics engineers on site to make sure that your robot arms are working at all times.
Versatility- Industrial Robots Made for Multiple Functions
One of the biggest challenges SMEs face when trying to adopt industrial robots is how inflexible they can be can in terms of what they do. A traditional industrial robot can only be designed to handle one or two tasks and any attempts to alter their functions would require an expensive setup change.
With this in mind, companies making industrial robots for the SME sector have designed smaller more versatile robots that can perform a wide array of functions with minimal setup changes. These robots are usually modular, easy to program, and come in different sizes and designs. It’s not uncommon to find a single robot model that is used in one factory and find the very same model in a different factory.
Modern SME robots rely on their versatility as a selling point to SME adopters because they usually need to change their production setups more often than big companies. All that is needed is a new end of arm tooling, a new program and an SME robot can be repurposed to a different function. This process normally takes a few minutes and can be done by onsite factory staff. Without this, most SMEs would shy away from industrial robots because of the way they operate their production lines.
Low-Volume Automation Is Now Possible
While automation is meant to increase production, most SMEs thrive in low-volume, low-cost, and high-mix production. This is why it has been impractical for most SMEs to fully embrace industrial robotics as a way to bump up their production numbers.
Today’s multifunctional robots have bucked the trend by allowing SMEs to still enjoy the benefits of automation without worrying about whether they are utilizing the robot’s full capacity. Small-scale multifunctional robots can be fully utilized by having them handle a myriad of tasks on a factory floor. There are even small robot arms in the market that can still handle low-volume production too.
SMEs have a lot to be excited about as we get deeper into industry 4.0. The shift in the industrial automation market seems to be in their favor. By adopting small-scale industrial robots, they can now start competing at the same level as their bigger counterparts.