#ThoughtsOnRobots: Tom Moolayil
Implementing collaborative automation can seem daunting, especially if you are new to automation. We asked Tom Moolayil, Director of Engineering at Uchimura Robotics LLC, to share his thoughts on how to identify the best tasks for automation and successfully implement collaborative applications.
More customers are warming up to the idea of space-saving, easy to use, redeployable robots, according to Tom Moolayil, Director of Engineering at Uchimura Robotics LLC in the US.
That means more manufacturers with little or no experience with automation are facing the challenges of implementing collaborative applications. In this interview, Tom Moolayil shares his four-step method to a successful collaborative implementation.
“I call it ACDC. Analyze, Conceptualize, Designate and Carry-Out,” he says.
The ACDC method of implementation:
Analyze the process completely. Do your research. Have a clear idea of the process that needs automation in terms of available space, cycle time, payload etc., and make sure that a collaborative application will, in fact, solve your problem. Collaborative applications may look stylish on a factory floor or in a lab, but they may not always be the best solution for you.
Conceptualize your ideas on paper, and develop a proof of concept. If possible, do a test or a simulation. Does it work in real life?
Designate the proper resources (man and machine). Without sufficient resources in terms of money, time and people to carry it out, the automation project will flounder.
Carry out the execution. Install the collaborative application, ensure proper training of staff, and start producing.
How to identify the best tasks for automation
To identify the greatest automation potential in your production line, look for mundane tasks that your workers would be happy to relinquish.
“Any mundane, repetitive task that is not a bottleneck, involves constant attention, but minimal spatial manipulation by a human worker is an obvious, high-potential collaborative task,” says Tom Moolayil.
Collaborative applications can not only increase efficiency and reliability in the production but also improve welfare at work.
“Customers often report a general increase in worker happiness when they no longer have to spend time on mundane tasks,” Tom Moolayil explains.
Case: Simple sheet metal deburring application
“For a customer, we recently implemented a simple, collaborative sheet metal deburring application. This application makes perfect use of the human-robot collaboration,” Tom Moolayil says.
Before, human workers would spend all day loading sheets of metal into a deburring machine. This was mundane, repetitive work that took its toll on workers’ mental and physical health. Hence, the manufacturer started looking at automation options. In this case, cycle time was not an issue. Space, however, was a concern since the plant had many machines. Choosing a collaborative application eliminated that concern.
The collaborative application freed up the machine operator to perform more interesting, value-adding tasks. The robot did not replace the worker, but rather improved his job.
“Cycle time, payload and safety are often the biggest considerations for customers looking to automate their production line. While those are important, I believe that it is equally important to focus on improving worker health by removing the mental and physical wear of boring, mundane, repetitive tasks,” says Tom Moolayil.
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