Combating Worker Shortages with Robots
There are many reasons why a company may take the plunge into robotic automation. Increasing productivity, reducing cycle times, lowering costs, improving quality, and eliminating inefficiencies are all top reasons companies decide to automate a portion or all of the operations with industrial robots. There is another factor that is quickly becoming one of the primary reasons for adopting industrial robots and that is scarce labor.
Prior to 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic some fields were already experiencing labor shortages, particularly skilled positions such as welding. Many companies began automating their welding applications with the FANUC Arcmate 100ic and other arc welding robots to fill in labor gaps and avoid more turnover. Over the past year more people have left the workforce causing labor shortages in nearly every sector. Companies are struggling to find workers leading many to make the switch to robotic automation. It’s not just the manufacturing setting that is automating with robots. Even those in the service sector are automating with robots such as restaurants and retailers.
While robots have been trending for quite some time and growing each year, the current labor shortage has significantly accelerated the adoption of robots. With advancements in robotic technology such as sophisticated software, visions systems, and force sensors, articulated robots are able to automate a wide variety of applications. Common applications for six axis robots include welding, material handling, material removal, painting, and assembly. Not only is there a robot capable of automating just about any production process but the wide variety of robots allows for just about any work environment to implement robotic automation. Cleanroom robots are perfect for settings with stringent cleanliness policies. The FANUC M-2ia is a cleanroom robot that can operate in food manufacturing. While the high IP rating of the FANUC M-710ic/50 allows it to operate even in hazardous conditions.
When implementing robots, companies immediately inherit the skill level of an experienced worker. Robots are programmed for accuracy and precision. Once a robotic program has been developed and uploaded to the robot, the robot is ready to operate, eliminating downtime for worker training. The high repeatability of robots ensures they operate within the parameters of the application, replicating each cycle. Should production processes change, the robot can be reprogrammed for the new application. This avoids additional employee training or having to search for a worker with the desired skillset.
Some companies may be concerned about the expense of having to automate an entire production line, but robotic automation is more affordable than some may think. Since robots can handle a higher workload than workers and operate for longer periods of time, one robot can replace several workers. You likely will not need a single robot for every worker on a production line. Robots reduce production costs while increasing productivity allowing companies to recapture their ROI and expand their profit potential. There are also many high-quality robots available on the used robot market. A used ABB 6640 provides many of the same benefits as a new robot but with less upfront cost to the buyer.