In March 2021, AML Advisory (AML) was selected to implement the Victorian Government’s Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) pilot program. A program established to facilitate the introduction of robotics into SME organisations with the primary benefit of safety, but also productivity and efficiency. Since then, AML has met and learnt from multiple industry stakeholders including managers, operators, technicians, engineers, packers, forklift operators and many more. All of whom were happy to share their concerns and ideas for their respective workplaces and impart their wisdom regarding robotics and automation technology adoption. This blog is for business owners and managers eager to learn from this experience and apply these lessons to their own business.
Identified and funded by WorkSafe Victoria (WSV) the pilot aims to demonstrate that through the adoption of an AMR, workplaces can eliminate or significantly reduce risk of injury caused by manual handling tasks associated with internal movement of goods (pushing, pulling and lifting).
Most of the production facilities we engage with have a “Pam.” A tough, resourceful, hardworking gal (or guy) that just knew the job that needed to be done and got on with it. Pam is well loved by management and staff and is really everything your workplace values in a worker. But the reason you love Pam is also the reason you might lose Pam. Pam doesn’t complain, so it is hard to tell exactly when Pam needs help before she gets hurt. Pams are usually very knowledge and have specialist skills within the workplace, so losing her through injury is actually a big issue. You rely on Pam. Robotics and automation actually help Pam do her job safely, more efficiently and for longer by protecting her from harm. Therefore, Pam is safe, less stressed and becomes and even bigger asset to your business operations.
It is well documented and researched that the adoption of robotics and automated technology yields quality, safety, productivity and savings returns to organisations in specific need. A robot does not suffer fatigue and is able to keep up the same pace and consistency from the start of a shift, all the way to the end. A robot will not take risks, become inpatient, get flustered or complacent in its tasks and will work nightshift without a moment’s hesitation. However, we have seen, to get these benefits, it takes a significant amount of assessment, analysis, planning, and monitoring to yield a significant return on investment. For example, companies often run into strife by finding and falling in love with a shiny new robot that promises the world, only to be let down when it arrives and it takes a PHD to set up and the supplier you purchased it from says “sorry you’ll have to talk to the manufacturer”. It takes more than a demo and clever marketing to get your business set up for success.
From working closely with a number of robotics vendors throughout this project, AML was able to learn a considerable amount regarding worker acceptance of robotics into the workplace. One of our robot vendors shared that workplaces that have a high turnover of staff tended to have a more difficult time convincing their workers of using robotics than compared to low staff turnover workplaces. Their reasoning for why that is, is that people that have worked in a job for a long time tend to know and trust management and feel less threatened by the presence of a robot. The robot is there to supplement, not replace. It supports productivity and is often very effective in taking charge of those roles that are Dirty, Dangerous or Difficult. Most workers in this position are very happy to see these robotic friends.
AML is a well placed logistics technology advisory. We are not a robotics vendor relying on the sale of a product. We know and understand the products and we remain brand agnostic. We are able to objectively assess your businesses needs and identify the most suitable technology solution whether that involves robotics or not. Should we identify a robotics or automation solution for your business and you choose to pursue robots, AML can lead you through this difficult process and achieve a sustainable and measurable result. One of the key ways we protect our clients against the risks in navigating this process, is by using our experience in accurately scoping the requirements to meet your business success and objectively measuring the options that a robotics supplier can meet. We provide you with third party objectivity that is supported by evidence – not just a sales brochure. This keeps vendors accountable to their promises rather than your staff simply slumped with the manual and told “best of luck”.
AML was chosen to implement this AMR project for three key reasons; we are experienced with logistics technology and appreciate how technology serves a business operation and must integrate into the overall organisations operations. We also understand that any robotics implementation requires sound project management skills and the process from selection to acquisition to implementation and sustainment must be managed and finally, AML is motivated by the clients' interests, not the robotics vendor. We are brand agnostic and seek the optimal solution to meet the business needs.
AML is an Australian owned and operated company originating in Melbourne. AML has a proven track record of successful project management, asset management, equipment sustainment, logistics and procurement projects and is fully accredited across Local, State and Federal government panels. Similarly, AML practices social procurement ensuring it gives back to the community in which we do business by hiring locally and actively contributing to various advocacy groups such as Committee for Gippsland and Gippsland Women in Business. AML has, and continues to foster, strong partnerships between industry and government to achieve common objectives. Each approach to the task or project at hand, is fully tailored to each client dependent on their specific needs. Too often AML has seen clients’ needs be shoehorned into a convenient framework only for AML to come in later and start all over again.
When it comes to adopting robotics solutions for your business there are considerations and options that will impact the solution that is ultimately selected. Achieving effectiveness and a Value for Money solution is paramount. As advisors, it is our job to provide you the options and recommendations needed for you and your business to make an informed decision. So why choose an advisory service over doing the project internally with your own team?
The first and most common option by way of an attempt to save money, is to allocate an existing staff member to the task of researching, evaluating, recommending, purchasing, and implementing a robotics solution into your company. However, this approach often results in the staff member being over stretched with this complex, multifaceted task and their routine responsibilities leading to holes in their work or the “too hard basket”. If you worker is superhuman (a Pam) and able work on the additional task of investigating robots, unfortunately the likely outcome is the technology solution identified is overpriced, does not fulfill the business’ needs and /or fated to become a relic in the corner that people just say “yeah we tried robotics, didn’t work for us”.
The second option is to hire a new staff member whose sole responsibility is to research, evaluate, recommend, purchase, and commission an automation solutions into your company. This seems like a better option because now you have a dedicated person that is not over stretched and probably has specialised knowledge and skills to complete the task. However, to do it all inhouse, you have to go through a costly and time-consuming hiring process to get that knowledgeable and highly skilled and expensive individual, all of which get you no closer to actually solving the problem until that persons first day on the job. The result you spent a great deal of time, energy and resources before an automation work has even begun.
The third option is contracting an advisory service for a fixed timeframe, budget and quality to analyse your specific business needs and objectives, assess the market, advise a solution, negotiate value for money and return of investment guarantees, implement and integrate the equipment into the workplace seamlessly and provided continued ongoing support to your company. This means to get an experienced and knowledgeable team dedicated fully to solving your business requirements for an agreed amount of time and budget that your business is willing to invest. It provides with the specialist skills and resources needed for the job with no hidden expenses lurking elsewhere. Ultimately, a faster, more effective and less expensive option that will likely deliver you more than you imagined.
If you want to see how an advisory service can get you started on successfully automating your business. Get in touch with AML Advisory today via our ‘Contact Us’ page on our website.