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Common Sense Robotic Automation

Common Sense Robotics

There are many reasons manufacturers consider integrating automation into their processes. One of the first questions that is asked around the table is “Does the ROI on this investment make it all worthwhile?”

Why are we doing this?
There can be multiple drivers in any capital project and this is especially true for automation. Getting to the bottom of the customer’s needs and expectations at the outset is the most important step to starting off on the right foot and focusing the solution in the right direction.
 
Foremost, work to understand the customer’s current process, their expectations for a solution and the human interaction upon completion of the project. Are they trying to eliminate ergonomic or safety issues? For example, are there repetitive tasks or heavy parts that could be causing injury or safety concerns? Are they trying to reduce/eliminate manpower to improve efficiency and reduce costs? Are they attempting to improve consistency in quality results or production rates?

Why a robot and not some other form of automation?


Capital equipment is typically purchased and then depreciated year after year, often long after their usability has become irrelevant. A piece of automation may be used for a single project and never used again.

The flexibility of a robot versus a fixed piece of automation is one of the main drivers manufacturers will invest in robotics. Because of their flexible nature, there are fewer considerations in up front engineering with robots. They can easily adapt to changes in projects or in the scope of a project. Their programmability allows them to pivot to a new line, different location and even a new task. For example, in automotive assembly where models are ever changing, and the parts changing, the robot can be reprogrammed to new part needs. A robot’s redeployability as a capital equipment asset is a very appealing characteristic for the accountants and investors.

How do you reduce risk?

There are lots of proactive steps that can be taken to reduce project risk, both on the side of the manufacturer and the customer. Identifying risks upfront will go a long way to provide a safer solution that meets the customer’s specifications. The discovery and specification phase should ask questions and clearly identify the elements that are priorities for the customer: 

• What are you going to do with the robot and what is the required?
• What cycle time and production rates do you require?
• What are the payload and reach requirements
• If assembly, what accuracy is required? 

Today’s technologies like risk assessment tools and software for modelling concepts and layouts can do things like simulate and verify robot moves and paths. 
If a customer requires a part of a solution that hasn’t been in your repertoire , there could be a place for a reduced level feasibility study. Maybe certain stations have a higher risk because the way we’re proposing is new to both of us. If they’re looking at purchasing multiple stations, that’s when it makes sense to create a prototype that will identify any issues first. Finding problems in engineering is always less costly than finding it in debugging or worse after installation!

How do you decide on a robot manufacturer? 

Most of the large robot manufacturers do a good job providing robots for all the basic applications. A customer may already have a brand preference because they’ve done research or they have a factory full of a particular brand.  It’s important to pay attention to customer experience. Often they want to use the same brand because they know how it works, how to program it, how to debug etc. Even in this case it’s important to emphasize training, as companies tend to short change at this step. 

When choosing a robot, customers will also consider the availability of accessories. 
2d vision has become very robust and 3d vision is continually improving. Most brands have common industrial communication and IO protocols in addition to End of Arm Tooling solutions. Although many custom EOAT are still being fabricated, standard, off the shelf components are great for spares and cut down on design costs.

How important is service and support?
Your automation system and robotics are a significant investment, so the service and support you’re going to get if something’s not working is of prime importance. When your robot or conveyance is down it’s costing you money. Make sure that training, maintenance, and support are more than a detail for your automation suppliers. 

If you would like to hear more about this topic, check out the Robot Industry Podcast where our own Lyle Weaver was interviewed on Common Sense Robotics.

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The Cost Benefit of Automation

Automation savings extend beyond labor costs

Decades ago, manufacturers that were considering using automation compared the cost of automating against the direct cost of labor they’d be replacing. Adding the number of people, shifts, and hours provided a benchmark to use for determining ROI.

That same basic calculation can be used as a starting point today; the benchmark ROI of an automation project now is typically under 24 months.

However, that historical capital expenditure calculation excludes many important factors that should also be considerations:


• Is human labor even available?
• What additional strategic advantages does automation offer?
• What is the total cost and value of ownership?

Using automation to solve the labor shortage in manufacturing
With the current labor shortage in many factories, the benefits of automation extend well beyond basic cost justification. When factories cannot fill open labor positions, they can’t meet production requirements. The need to increase production without recruiting will often drive a company to invest in automation. The costs of not being able to fulfill orders and losing customers has long-reaching implications that extend beyond a basic ROI calculation.
In addition to keeping production running, automation also helps companies attract workers. People who are interested in working in manufacturing are more likely to choose a company that is actively investing in automation and robotics and is poised to be competitive now and in the future. As well, for people looking for security, a company that has recently invested in automation will appear more stable and secure than a company that isn’t modernizing its operations.

Instead of replacing workers with robots, manufacturers are adding robotics and automation and retraining their valuable labor force for positions that include working with collaborative robots and using automation solutions.
Benefiting from the strategic advantages of automation
In addition to using automation to help attract and retain labour, automation offers many other strategic advantages.
Elevating health & safety levels by automating dangerous jobs
Using automation and robotics for dull, dirty, dangerous jobs can help factories develop an impressive safety record. Health & safety levels can be a deciding factor for potential employees, investors, and customers.

In addition to reducing dangerous jobs, robots can also be used for repetitive movements, leaving humans with ergonomic jobs that won’t cause repetitive stress injury.
Increasing scalability and flexibility with automation
When companies first started implementing automation, the cost equation was most favorable for industries like automotive manufacturing with low mix, high volume production needs. Now, with the reduced cost of automation and the availability of collaborative robots, automation makes financial sense for factories that have a wide range of higher mix, lower volume production runs.
With an automated line or automated production cells, manufacturers can be better equipped to take on bigger orders, or to offer a wider range of options.
Raising quality levels using the repeatability and reliability of automation

A properly programmed robot can perform the same movement the same way with a higher degree of accuracy than a human. New vision capabilities give robotics an even higher capacity for quality control and repeatability. Depending on the type of production being done, this high repeatability and quality potential can be exploited to a manufacturer’s advantage. As well, with data collection and management, traceability can also be incorporated into the manufacturing process.

Winning contracts with automation as a competitive edge
If a customer is comparing several manufacturers, and you’re able to offer the quality, reliability and efficiency benefits of using an automated solution, you’ll have an edge over the other factories using older, less reliable systems. The better-equipped factory will seem more likely to be able to deliver in-spec goods on time.
Understanding the total cost and value of ownership

When evaluating the cost of automation, it’s important to consider the manufacturer’s situation: are they in a survive-or-die scenario or are they in a position to invest in longer-term growth? Automation can provide the solution to both of these issues, and both must be considered in order to budget properly.

With too much focus on immediate needs, future growth won’t be supported; but, with too much emphasis on the future, the current financial position of a company can be compromised. It’s important to discuss potential growth plans with an implementer so that the foundation for a future phase of automation can be accommodated while respecting immediate needs and budget constraints.

The planning and implementation process are also important factors to consider. Having an experienced implementation team that can design a robust system, provide the integration needed with other systems, and deliver the system on time is invaluable.
As far as tangible goods that must be accounted for, there is the cost of the new machinery, plus spare parts and maintenance. For tangible value, the decreased cost of rework and rejects should be factored in.
Although it can be tempting to simplify the ROI calculation, to maximize your investment in automation, it’s essential to consider all costs and all value gained over the productive life of an automated solution.

If you are looking to integrate automation in your factory and need some advice, Ehrhardt Automation Systems would like to help. Reach out to one of our talented applications engineers at sales@ehrhardtsolutions.com

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Press Release: Ehrhardt Automation Systems

Press Release: Ehrhardt Automation Systems

Granite City, Illinois July 22, 2019

Ehrhardt Engineered Solutions Rebrands to Ehrhardt Automation Systems adds Industry Expert to Sales Organization.

“I am pleased to announce that as of today Ehrhardt Engineered Solutions has changed its name to Ehrhardt Automation Systems. Our decision to re-brand is driven by the change in our market focus and reflects where we are today as a company” says Jason P. Beatty, President. “The new name honors our founders of this respected 80 year old machine builder while reflecting our current offering as a world-class automation and robot systems integrator.

Rebranding the company is important for our customers and other stakeholders and especially for talent attraction”, said Beatty. “Assembly automation, flexibility and robot integration have become key value drivers for our customers and partners and is one of the reasons that we have also added new bench strength to our sales team. I am also announcing today that we have hired industry veteran Craig Witt to our management team to drive sales and growth within Ehrhardt Automation Systems.

“Craig will join us as our Vice President of Sales. We welcome Craig’s past clients to reach out to him for automation inquiries, sales, service and support needs”, concluded Beatty.

“As a career champion of advanced automation solutions and complex systems sales, I am excited to join Jason Beatty and the management team at Ehrhardt Automation Systems. The automation systems industry is experiencing significant growth and robotic integration is helping our customers increase quality, retain skilled workers and reduce manufacturing costs. I look forward to working with manufacturers and exploring new opportunities in diverse markets for Ehrhardt” said Mr. Witt.

About Ehrhardt Automation Systems:
Ehrhardt Automation Systems is an automation system and robot integrator based in Granite City, Illinois. The company has been building precision automation, custom machines, assembly automation and factory automation systems for over 80 years serving automotive, HVAC, consumer, electronics, medical and nuclear markets.

—30—

Company contact: Craig Witt at 877-386-7856 | email at sales@ehrhardtautomation.com

Press contact: Jim Beretta | Customer Attraction jim@customerattraction.com

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What is the Cost of Factory Automation

Automation savings extend beyond labor costs


Decades ago, manufacturers that were considering using automation compared the cost of automating against the direct cost of labor they’d be replacing. Adding the number of people, shifts, and hours provided a benchmark to use for determining ROI.

That same basic calculation can be used as a starting point today; the benchmark ROI of an automation project now is typically under 24 months. However, that historical capital expenditure calculation excludes many important factors that should also be considerations:

Is human labor even available?
What additional strategic advantages does automation offer?
What is the total cost and value of ownership?


Using automation to solve the labor shortage in manufacturing
With the current skilled labor shortage in many factories, the benefits of automation extend well beyond basic cost justification. When factories cannot fill open labor positions, they can’t meet production requirements. The need to increase production without recruiting will often drive a company to invest in automation. The costs of not being able to fulfill orders and losing customers has long-reaching implications that extend beyond a basic ROI calculation.

In addition to keeping production running, automation also helps companies attract workers. People who are interested in working in manufacturing are more likely to choose a company that is actively investing in automation and robotics and is poised to be competitive now and in the future. As well, for people looking for security, a company that has recently invested in automation will appear more stable and secure than a company that isn’t modernizing its operations.

Instead of replacing workers with robots, manufacturers are adding robotics and automation and retraining their valuable labor force for positions that include working with collaborative robots and using automation solutions.

Benefiting from the strategic advantages of automation
In addition to using automation to help attract and retain labour, automation offers many other strategic advantages.

Elevating health & safety levels by automating dangerous jobs
Using automation and robotics for dull, dirty, dangerous jobs can help factories develop an impressive safety record. Health & safety levels can be a deciding factor for potential employees, investors, and customers. In addition to reducing dangerous jobs, robots can also be used for repetitive movements, leaving humans with ergonomic jobs that won’t cause repetitive stress injury.

Increasing scalability and flexibility with automation
When companies first started implementing automation, the cost equation was most favorable for industries like automotive manufacturing with low mix, high volume production needs. Now, with the reduced cost of automation and the availability of collaborative robots, automation makes financial sense for factories that have a wide range of higher mix, lower volume production runs.
With an automated line or automated production cells, manufacturers can be better equipped to take on bigger orders, or to offer a wider range of options.

Raising quality levels using the repeatability and reliability of automation
A properly programmed robot can perform the same movement the same way with a higher degree of accuracy than a human. New vision capabilities give robotics an even higher capacity for quality control and repeatability. Depending on the type of production being done, this high repeatability and quality potential can be exploited to a manufacturer’s advantage. As well, with data collection and management, traceability can also be incorporated into the manufacturing process.

Winning contracts with automation as a competitive edge
If a customer is comparing several manufacturers, and you’re able to offer the quality, reliability and efficiency benefits of using an automated solution, you’ll have an edge over the other factories using older, less reliable systems. The better-equipped factory will seem more likely to be able to deliver in-spec goods on time.
Understanding the total cost and value of ownership

When evaluating the cost of automation, it’s important to consider the manufacturer’s situation: are they in a survive-or-die scenario or are they in a position to invest in longer-term growth? Automation can provide the solution to both of these issues, and both must be considered in order to budget properly.

With too much focus on immediate needs, future growth won’t be supported; but, with too much emphasis on the future, the current financial position of a company can be compromised. It’s important to discuss potential growth plans with an implementer so that the foundation for a future phase of automation can be accommodated while respecting immediate needs and budget constraints.

The planning and implementation process are also important factors to consider. Having an experienced implementation team that can design a robust system, provide the integration needed with other systems, and deliver the system on time is invaluable.
As far as tangible goods that must be accounted for, there is the cost of the new machinery, plus spare parts and maintenance. For tangible value, the decreased cost of rework and rejects should be factored in.
Although it can be tempting to simplify the ROI calculation, to maximize your investment in automation, it’s essential to consider all costs and all value gained over the productive life of an automated solution.

Do you need factory automation or a custom machine. Do you need to learn more about using a robot or automation for a specific production process? Contact us at Ehrhardt Engineered Systems at: 877-386-7856 or email us at sales@ehrhardtsolutions.com