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BlueBay Automation offers an array of high quality automation products backed by an extensive selection of value-added services. BlueBay represents the most comprehensive knowledge base of industrial technologies and products in our market. Industrial Automation is our core business. We believe that success in the automation business requires 100% management commitment…BlueBay represents that commitment. With this in mind, it was quickly realized that BlueBay Automation was providing the value-added automation solutions for the Customer in place of the existing product Distributors. These solutions typically involved Machine/Motion Control, HMI and VFD applications.

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Best Practices in Implementing Machine Tending Cobots

POSTED 09/23/2022

Cobots being involved in machine tending takes a scenario where 4 humans are loading and unloading their machines all day and turns it to a situation where one human could oversee 4 cobots picking and placing the items into those machines. This is why machine tending is one of the fastest growing areas of cobot automation. Not only is it likely a more rewarding job for the operator, but it creates consistency in process and quality.

Because collaborative robots are only a few years in existence, let's talk about some of the misconceptions with machinetending and cobots in general.

  • "It's a futuristic concept that is still years out" - We're already there! We're seeing companies of all shapes and sizes adopting this technology. The technology is there, and rapidly evolving. If you're on LinkedIn a decent amount then you've likely seen countless videos and thought leaders pressing the need for cobotics in SMB automation!
  • "It's not for job shops" - Although job shops do have high-mix low-volume, there's still likely a good bit of continuity in different batches of parts that can be taken and placed into the machines. Generally it's just a matter of selecting the right gripper combination (like OnRobot's dual gripper) for the task at hand. This is an area where selecting the right automation solution partner is critical.
  • "We need an entire automation cell to get started" - This is usually incorrect, as we've seen many manufacturers start small with one cobot and dip their toes in. That allows them to ease their way into the associated costs and see a much faster return on investment while fostering a level of comfort with the technology.

How To Identify An Opportunity For Cobot Automation

"If you can do it blindfolded, with one hand behind your back, with an oven mitt on the other hand, then that is a GREAT application to start with."

Let's talk about how to get started when looking for something to automate. The quote above summarizes the search process well. If it's not overly complicated then you can get your feet wet and we can show you how to make money in the process. Below is a good list of descriptors for some tasks that you'll likely find in your facility. 

Processes with dedicated tooling and repetitive work

If the process has dedicated tooling, it's likely a great candidate. A repetitive process will yield a quicker return on investment, without as many variables floating around. 

Batch work (as discussed above)

We'll say it again...Although job shops do have high-mix low-volume, there's still likely a good bit of continuity in different batches of parts that can be taken and placed into the machines. Generally it's just a matter of selecting the right gripper combination (like OnRobot's dual gripper)

The 3 D's: Dangerous, Dirty, and Dull.

Some examples of these tasks would be deburring, degreasing, sanding, polishing, or welding (especially simple and repetitive welding)

A pitfall that many companies fall into is wanting to start with the most complicated activities in the manufacturing process. The reality is we CAN do that, but it comes at a cost of both time and money. Now we can certainly make those cells work, but the reason we don't recommend that to companies who are automating for the first time is because of the time it takes to implement and dosing the solution, and the cost that comes with that time and hardware. Going that route more often than not creates a huge barrier to entry in automation. 

Three Best Practices to Consider

  1. Start with a proven manufacturing process. Something you've been doing for a while, have a complete understanding of your work holding, have an optimized program, you understand tool life, and you understand that part completely.  The more profitable that part is, the quicker the ROI will be. We wrote a short piece on this which you can find here: Identifying Opportunities for Automation
  2. Have someone available that can take ownership of the system. Someone who is dedicated and has it on their agenda.. Example: once a day, for one hour, they're going to do the work necessary. 
  3. Make sure you're partnering with the right company. It's important to get off on the right foot so that you don't get a bad taste in your mouth with automation.  You can learn more about this in our blog reviewing factors for selecting the right automation partner: See Blog Here

At BlueBay Automation, helping companies find the right tasks to automate is our charter. We have implemented automation into countless applications, both big and small, and have a fully developed team ready to assist whenever you are ready. If you're considering automation and would like one of our application engineers to take a look, reach out to us on our website: Contact Us