Lean and Robots: How they can help each other

A global pandemic, significant e-commerce demands, and widespread uncertainty all caused major disruption to many manufacturing operations and workflows across the country. As a consequence, many commercial entities struggled to deliver on new or increased customer expectations (quick delivery, customised items and high quality) in a safe, reliable, and profitable manner. So, whereto from here?  What can your business do to realise overcoming these constraints?

Companies large and small are carefully considering how they may incorporate robots to improve their current operations and longevity. However, many companies are faced with significant uncertainty in the early stages of their implementation such as: Can robots really help my business? Can a robot complete my specific task more efficiently and productively then how it is being completed currently? Which technology application should we choose? Can we over capitalise on a solution? And where to start?

The answer to these questions depends on the application, on your company’s robotics skills, on your business objectives, reliance on the process, resourcing factors, budget, cost to benefit ratio and many other factors. Traditionally, a “one size fits all” robotic solution has been the most common decision and applied to many environments due to relative speed and simplicity. However, using a clear standardized, step-by-step methodology can better help to break the complicated problems down into a series of smaller, more manageable phases and achieve a more fit for purpose solution.

From AML’s experience working on various lean and continuous improvement projects across different industries, we have witnessed the importance of applying Lean manufacturing principles to efficiently and seamlessly incorporate robotics into manufacturing businesses. Below is a brief success lesson that we believe companies must consider into their robotics technology selection and implementation.

In the simplest term, customer satisfaction comes down to three main objectives. These are Quality, Cost, and Delivery. Lean is about providing the customer with the right product built to the customer's requirements. For achieving such a goal by using robotics technology, you need to look at your internal process first (i.e., internal customers).

Looking at your internal manufacturing processes, the product is whatever the robotic technology is delivering to the next station in the manufacturing process. For example, your robot’s station (customer) might be the dispatching department, which values receiving correct quantity and non-defective items.

It is important the next customer receive the right parts, in the right place, at the right time and serviceable to do its job. This customer defines value as receiving the right parts, with the right presentation, at the right time, so it can in turn create value.

Therefore, in your robotics technology selection, you should start by answering this question: what is the value that the robot should be creating for the next station in your business operations?

This puts the emphasis on delivering a reliable, fit for purpose robotic technology the first time! If you are unsure of where to start your operations automation journey, contact the technology logistics professionals on (03) 8687 2174 or book an appointment at https://bit.ly/2UMJZ72

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