Manufacturers are Throwing Away as Much as $80,000 - $90,000 per Shift Operation Due to Improper Integration of Collaborative Robots

According to Ultra Tech Automation, Manufacturers Are Paying a Price—Cost, Status, Lack of Innovation—Because They Don’t Know How to Effectively Deploy Their “Cobots”

Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio—February 2019. Ultra Tech Automation, an HEH Group company, tells manufacturers they could be wasting nearly $90,000 per year on each operation that requires the use of collaborative robotics, due to improper, insufficient or even nonexistent integration of the robots into their processes. This estimate, based on typical costs for a robot and hours in an industrial shift, is an example of the opportunities lost through not understanding this new industrial mode.

This collaboration has significant opportunities for manufacturing efficiencies, innovation and growth—as long as the collaborative process integration is well designed and well implemented. However, the surge in development of these robots has led to a flurry of companies buying them without a well-defined set of objectives or good plan to use the cobot in their manufacturing processes.

According to estimates by Ultra Tech Automation, an inadequate implementation can cost a manufacturer $86,000 per operation per year, based on the cost of a collaborative robot and the cost of unutilized time or down time by employees. This estimate is based on a $100,000 robot with utilization across a three-shift operation of 2,000 hours per shift per year.

Steve LaMarre, Director of Automation Sales, said, "We see this every day. Our customers seriously invest in these robots—to the tune of anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000--and then let them sit on the floor because they don't know how to properly utilize them. Money is just flying out the door."

Growth and Innovation Are at Risk for Manufacturers
Manufacturers that do not utilize cobots properly lose valuable growth opportunities—efficiencies, improvements to the line, enhancements to manufacturing quality and other advantages. They also lose unique opportunities for innovation, which tends to occur "on the shop floor" in response to actual needs and challenges.

Improper utilization also can limit a manufacturer's ability to make robotic collaboration work on behalf of their own customers, who in some cases request the purchase of the cobot to begin with. Even manufacturers with in-house engineering capabilities may ultimately not be utilizing the cobots as they should be. Such a situation, for example where the manufacturer and their customer had anticipated process efficiencies or enhancements, can impact shared goals and jeopardize the manufacturer's own customer relationships.

LaMarre said, "So much time and potential for innovation are being wasted due to the availability of these robots and the lack of help in integration. We see manufacturers demanding the inclusion of cobots be used in processes, but no one is helping them to utilize the robots properly."

It takes a deep understanding of manufacturing, scope of experience and strategic viewpoint to know what to do. Hagarty said that Ultra Tech Automation, coming out of Ultra Tech Machinery—with 30 years of experience serving manufacturers—has the skills and resources to be a source for making work shared by human and cobot collaborative, productive and cost-effective in the industrial workspace. With its knowledge and experience in this collaborative robot space, Ultra Tech Automation can provide a strategic service that can be strategically more significant over time than a traditional engineered solution, which might address a specific function but not the entire process.

Bob Hagarty, President of HEH Group, said, "Because we've been working in the collaborative space for some time, we know that every situation is different. There can be many different levels of collaboration, true collaboration and limited. With our established resources in manufacturing, machining and technology, we know how to tell if a company is making the most of its robotic collaboration."

He added, "These are not frivolous purchases, and manufacturers should not be satisfied with window dressing—too much is riding on the investment they've made."

Different aspects of a company's manufacturing process may be more suitable to collaborative robots than others. The complexity of industrial functions and process-driven employee activities means that every particular integration should be approached strategically. With hundreds of kinds of robotic functions throughout such areas as industry, defense, and engineering services, the very newness of cobots can be a barrier to success in deploying them.

An integration specialist has the resources to serve, support and engineer the robotic technology and the experience to know how best to deploy the robot where it can be used well. This includes helping to integrate the human workers' functions with those of the robot in effective collaboration.

About Ultra Tech Automation and HEH Group

Ultra Tech Automation is part of HEH Group, a family of companies providing leading manufacturing solutions to industry. Through the combined strength and resources of its companies, HEH Group can pinpoint products and services to keep companies competitive in their markets. Ultra Tech Automation provides innovative automation solutions with proven reliability and assurance of long-term value, and has partnered with industry leaders FANUC Robotics and Yaskawa Motoman. Sister company Ultra Tech Machinery develops solutions for manufacturing with custom machines, remanufacturing and total process solutions, and has deployed and supplied robotic automation since the company started. Other HEH companies include machine-tool companies Crotts & Saunders and Motch & Eichele, and machine spindle-repair company AST (Advanced Spindle Technology).

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