Lean Robotics Guide
Industry Insights

A Lean Robotics Approach To Maximizing Automation Output

Published 17 Jun 2020

Looking to further enhance your manufacturing process with robots? Lean robotics is a guide by Samuel Bouchard, the CEO of Robotiq, to help you efficiently deploy collaborative robots in your factory. It primarily integrates lean principles and collaborative robotics into your existing process design as straightforward as possible.

Lean robotics may be outlined by the following 4 principles:

1. People before robots
Before you dwell into the specific complementary aspects of robots in your manufacturing space, your first consideration should address the safety of your workers if you were to make robots work for you. A worker’s safety is a core aspect of our society’s values and legal regulations, and we have a duty to uphold it. Given that procedures and the work environment are centered on a worker’s safety and welfare, deployment of robots should similarly not harm humans. So, now you might ask: how do you ensure that your new machine will not pose as danger and inflict harm on anyone?

By conducting a risk assessment.

The risk assessment should be done at least in accordance with the corporate safety rules and guidelines, any local regulations and guidelines published by the ISO (International Standard for Organization) and/or a country-specific equivalent.

Ultimately, do bear in mind that you are employing robots to serve humans; obviously, the last thing they should do is to hurt them!

The next strategic move for the deployment of robots is enabling the accessibility of your robotic cells to all (or a majority) of your employees through training. In particular, this supports 2 major benefits.

First, if all your workers are able to leverage on robots effectively, it will create a great synergy for your business. As your employees gain expertise on robotics, they can identify areas for improvements, and use robots to address any gaps in current production.

Additionally, making robots accessible mitigates the risk of having too few employees who understand how to use the robots. This will eliminate the unnecessary constraint of having insufficient operators. Of course, the simplest way to do so would be to choose robots that are controlled by the most user-friendly interfaces or the simplest programming commands.

Remember, robots are merely tools. And tools that can yield the greatest benefits are those made available and mastered by those who wield them.

2. Focus on the robot cell output
Just like how the process usually defines the end product, there are times when you have to focus on serving the internal customer (the process) first before you can achieve the end goal of lean manufacturing (the end product). The internal customer in this case includes the process, station, department, etc; anything that will receive a given output within the factory.

For lean robotics, your primary focus is always on prioritizing the internal customer – that is, whichever station that comes after the robotic cell in your production sequence. This “customer” then defines value as receiving from the upstream station the right parts, with the right presentation, at the right time, so that it can in turn create value.

As such, an important aspect would be for you to measure how much value the robotic cell is producing for the next downstream station. This will determine the performance of the robotic cell and assist in any evaluation for redeployment.

3. Eliminate waste

Image source: Samuel Bouchard. Lean Robotics. September 21, 2017
For your business, any waste is the difference between your investment and the actual results that you get.

Perhaps it is the easiest place to start, but we tend to focus on reducing waste at the operation stage when deploying the robotic cell. But what we are missing is that lean robotics includes optimizing the design and integration stages as well. You should give just as much attention to the robotic deployment tasks as they have an important leverage effect.

An illustration: you may have deployed robots with your internal team but perhaps due to certain circumstances, the robotic cells are unable to start production until a few months after they were supposed to. This means that the point where you’ll break even on your investment will be delayed by those few months (and possibly even more) and there are also extra costs incurred by those delays. Any challenge you want to solve initially with the robot would incur even higher costs. Depending on the product you are planning to produce, the negative financial impact of delays can be significant.

4. Leverage your skills
If you are still reading on at this point, you might be questioning: “Why bother caring about building internal robotics skills? All I want is to set my robotic cell then forget it. Isn’t outsourcing it to an external system integrator much simpler?”

While rationalizing those “set then forget” robotic applications might sound compelling, unfortunately they will often not align with the reality of your factory’s needs. Activities on your factory floor are dynamic; including and not limited to the introduction of new products and regulations, and the improvement of current ones. The “set then forget” applications, by contrast, are generally designed for a sole purpose and do not promote flexibility for your manufacturing process. Hence, their implementation will inevitably limit the potential positive impact of robots in your factory.

So you can see why deploying the robotic cell with your own team, using the bottom-up lean robotics approach, is a much more flexible option than outsourcing. Now, imagine the benefits of leveraging your skills over time, how much would this potentially increase your ROI?

Introducing robots to your manufacturing ground is only the beginning. Achieve more with your robots now and maximize your investments!

About Augmentus
Augmentus offers the leading full-stack code-free robotic automation platform that enables anyone, even those with no robotic experience, to develop robotic systems. We have partnerships with the world’s leading robot manufacturers and automation providers to empower manufacturers to recoup ROI faster by lowering time, cost and skill barriers in robotic automation.

Augmentus ushers in a new era of human-machine interface, enabling 10X faster system deployments and saving thousands of automation costs within weeks of integration.

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