Cultivating boss buy-in for robotic automation

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by Josh Leath

The adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is a very present reality for many manufacturers. However, even an operation that is running smoothly could most likely benefit from user-friendly technology, including high-performance robots that are proven to optimize throughput and quality. In turn, this could boost overall competitive edge, setting a company apart from its competition. Still, old habits can be tough to break, especially if you are an employee that is trying to motivate your boss to consider the implementation of robotic automation.

Here are a few concepts employees should consider when formulating a persuasive pitch that can prompt their bosses to make robotics more approachable and easily justified:

Define the Why
The key to automation justification is the clear and concise presentation of the production pain points that will be addressed via the implementation of extremely reliable and efficient robots to achieve a desired future state. From increased throughput, flexibility, quality, health and safety to reduced waste, costs and turnover, there are a variety of avenues to consider. Plus, the concepts of attracting new business, and the ability to trace and record data can be game-changing points to make. Where the latter point is concerned, setting business expectations and determining what metrics should be increased or decreased when it comes to time, production, cost, etc. is usually helpful, providing a clear picture for future scope.

Promote Competitive Edge
The benefits of robotic automation are clear – with 43% of manufacturers already using it to complete a myriad of processes to fulfill strategic initiatives, and another 43% planning to deploy in the near future, according to an Impact Networking report. All this to say, companies that delay the transition to robotic process automation risk falling behind their competitors, while missing out on the improved quality, accuracy and other advantages robots are proven to provide.

Analyze Automation Cost
Being able to communicate how quickly a robotic system could be profitable can be incredibly beneficial to promoting a case for its integration. These financial factors should include improved product quality, reduced scrap, increased efficiency and labor savings. Whether assembly, cutting, dispensing, inspecting, polishing, welding or performing a handling application or other task, being able to provide a rough idea of the potential financial gains a system could provide over a target payback period (typically varying in range from 18 months for most solutions, but justified up to 5 years to solve more complicated processes) is ideal. After that payback period, cashflow can be measured as your continued return on investment. From gauging payback time to factoring Total Factor Productivity (TFP), some thought will need to go into this to ensure the best solution based on strategic goals.

As far as system selection, robotic automation can manifest in capital investments or leasing equipment. Make note: near immediate payback can often be seen on leased equipment, but greater long-term profitability is acquired on capital investments. Either way, options exist to accommodate unique requirements.

To help manufacturers have a budgetary target for a robotic system that meets payback and productivity requirements, our experts have created the Welding System Payback Calculator, which can help establish justification for system design. Note: while estimates are for general budgeting purposes (based on our extensive experience with welding automation), the calculator may also apply to other robotic applications.

Take the Leap Overall, the availability of highly capable and more affordable robotic options allows manufacturers to use limited labor and capital resources more efficiently. If you believe robotic automation is a good fit for your company, take these concepts and seize the opportunity to make your proposal. And, as always, if you have questions, feel free to reach out to our robot experts for further advice.

Josh Leath is a Senior Product Manager with Yaskawa.

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