4 Keys to Success for Mobile Robot Deployments in Smart Factories and Flexible Logistic Centers
By Nic Temple
Sales Director, Western USA
More and more companies, manufacturers as well as 3PLs, are interested in implementing mobile robots in their facilities. As the technology is still new, the same questions get raised. How do I get started? What makes a successful project? How many robots do I need? Ultimately, what have others that have gone this road before us done that we can learn from?
So here are 4 keys to success that I have seen.
1) For the pilot project, focus on the basics without losing site of the end goal.
If its a new concept for your business this is important. Find a scalable solution from your robot provider that allows you to learn with a smaller initial investment but one that can be rolled out site wide easily once you have convinced your manager, your colleagues on the floor, your IT department, your safety department and yourself that you can undertake a larger full scale project. If you want to jump to a bigger project or one that might require cross departmental resources, consider your milestones and if your project should have different phases to allow time for you to learn and grow.
2) Scope out your project.
Have you completed a time study? Do you understand your fully loaded labor costs? How would you like to transfer the material to and from the robot? What does the infeed and outfeed systems look like? We all know there is a good reason to sometimes invest in technology for the sake of technology and learning. However, without a firm project in mind, priorities can change and that can mean less time for side projects that dont have a ROI attached directly to it.
3) Pay attention to cultural needs.
For those reading my post, you are probably well versed in technology. However, many of the people whom will be interacting with a mobile robot on a daily basis may not be. This leads to a lack of acceptance (and even potential sabotage!) So its important to find a way to make the technology less scary. Almost all of my customers name their robots, but one of my customers created a naming competition for their three new mobile robots. The staff at the site each received a ballet and the winning entry was Larry, Moe and Curly :) Naming drives ownership and guess who will be responsible for Larry if he gets stuck in a pickle? Thats right the local site staff. That leads me on to the next point...
4) Have a champion (or two!) in house.
By having a champion onsite, that gives you the best ability to redeploy or continuously improve your process for use of the mobile robots. It also will allow you to keep costs low and avoid having to bring in costly outside third party support when you look to make changes. Mobile robots offer huge amounts of flexibility. Take advantage of this flexibility by investing in a champion.