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Is it time you made the switch to robots?

Robots have been proven to deliver a host of benefits in a wide variety of applications, from large scale mass production lines through to low volume processes. End users introducing robots to their production processes have typically reported a significant transformation in their productivity and efficiency, with higher levels of output, product quality and flexibility amongst the many improvements reported.

The benefits that robots can bring are seeing robots being introduced in increasing numbers in countries around the world, not least China, where 57,100 robots were sold in 2014, the highest number of robots ever sold in a single year. Already one of the world’s most competitive economies, the take-up of robots on this scale by China has enormous ramifications for any country wanting to remain relevant in the global manufacturing economy.

The combined drivers of competitiveness and productivity will see a continuing uptake of robots by companies worldwide. The latest estimates from the International Federation of Robotics’ 2015 report anticipate that 1.3 million robots will be operating in manufacturing applications globally by 2018.

For UK manufacturers looking for new ways to become more productive, there has never been a better time to make the switch to robotic automation. Ongoing reductions in cost and complexity, coupled with developments in technology, have made robotic automation an increasingly attractive prospect for an expanding range of applications in industries including:

  • Plastics – six-axis robots are more applicable than ever to plastics moulders. Their flexibility makes them the perfect complement to (or replacement for) traditional three-axis gantry automation.
  • Pharmaceuticals – Robots now come in hygienic wash-down models suitable for processes where contamination prevention is paramount. Advances in technology also mean that robots can help with the research and development stages, for example High Throughput Screening (HTS) whereby millions of tests can now be carried out faster than ever before.
  • Food and beverage – Developments in vision inspection technology enables robots to quickly spot defective products. For packing operations, the ability of a single robot allows it to handle a variety of mixed pallet specifications.
  • Wood – The flat-pack furniture and construction materials industries are entering a new era of robotized, flexible manufacturing, including processes such as materials handling, painting and coating, packaging and palletizing, polishing, sanding and finishing.
  • Metal fabrication – turn-key robotic solutions are available for a multitude of tasks within the metals industry, including cutting, welding and joining, forming, inspection and measuring.
  • Foundry & Forging – modern robotic technology is providing the answer to helping improve efficiency, increase flexibility and improve workplace safety in foundry and forging applications. With nearly 40 years of experience in foundry automation, there is hardly a challenge
  • that ABB robots or engineers have not yet mastered.
  • Automotive – Providing a comprehensive range of solutions to automotive manufacturers in the UK, our robots are applied to body in white assembly through to paint process automation.
  • Aerospace – advances in robotic vision and force control mean many aerospace companies are using robots for assembly and finishing applications.
  • Educational – To help equip the engineers of tomorrow with the skills needed for the future, robot manufacturers, including ABB, are offering schools, colleges and universities various packages and robots to help demonstrate and teach real-life industrial robot concepts in the classroom.
  • Solar – Robot-based systems for the solar industry are contributing significantly to the need for new sustainable energy generation, with the ability to handle everything from circuit boards and wafers through to entire solar panels.
  • Logistics – Robots are offering an expanding range of possibilities for the handling of products in logistics applications, including on-board handling of heavy goods.
  • Electrical & electronics (3C) – ABB’s new small robot family and FlexPicker are at work every day in assembly, small part material handling, inspection and testing facilities throughout the world. The recently launched YuMi is the world’s first dual armed collaborative robot which will meet the flexible and agile production needs of the consumer electronics industry.

Watch the 10 most popular applications video below

How can robots help?

Robotic automation offers an attractive opportunity for optimising productivity. The following are some examples of key areas where the use of a robot can prove beneficial:

Reduce operating costs – Robots can reduce both direct costs and overheads, making a dramatic difference to competitiveness.

Improve product quality and consistency – Robots produce a consistently high quality of finished materials, since there is no risk of tiredness, distraction or other effects from manually performing tedious and repetitive tasks.

Improve quality of work for employees – Employees no longer have to work in hot, dusty or hazardous environments, plus they can learn valuable programming skills and be freed up for other work.

Increase production output rates – Robots can be left running overnight and during weekends with little supervision, so output levels can increase and order deadlines be more easily met.

Increase product manufacturing flexibility – Robots can provide flexibility to a production line. Once processes are programmed into the robot controller, the robot can easily switch from process to process.

Reduce material waste and increase yield – Robots can achieve high-quality finishes from the start, and waste due to poor-quality or inconsistent finishing can be significantly reduced.

Comply with safety rules and improve workplace health and safety – Robots can take over unpleasant, arduous or health-threatening tasks, decreasing the likelihood of accidents caused by employee contact with potentially hazardous machines or processes.

Reduce labour turnover and difficulty of recruiting workers – With highly skilled manual workers becoming harder and more expensive to employ, robots can provide an ideal alternative.

Reduce capital costs (inventory, work in progress) – Robots can help reduce the cost of consumables used and reduce waste, plus with less manual labour, there will be fewer costs related to sickness, accidents and insurance.

Save space in high-value manufacturing areas – Robots can be placed on shelf systems, on walls or even on ceilings. They can also be programmed to work in confined spaces, saving valuable floor space.

Watch the top 10 reasons to invest in robots video below

Taking the next step

Want to know whether robotic automation is right for you? We have extensive experience in the manufacture and supply of robots and robot systems, from standalone units through to complete manufacturing cells and can provide you with a complete range of services to help ensure you get the most from an investment in robotic automation.

TRY OUR ROBOT ROI CALCULATOR to discover how quickly an investment in robot technology could pay for itself on your shop floor

If you are interested in taking the next step towards robotic automation, we offer a free no obligation appraisal, where an automation expert will provide an impartial review of your factory floor to advise how robotic automation could work best for you. To find out more, email or call 01908 350300 referencing ‘robotics appraisal’.