By Zachary Thoma, Regional Sales Manager at Kawasaki Robotics
Hang on there. Before you leave this page, let me just say I know what you’re thinking: an entire article about long-term robotics strategy? YAWN.
For the record, I fully agree with you. The manufacturing and industrial robotics sectors tend to get ridiculously technical in stories like these, publishing content that’s dry enough to make farmers panic.
It’s funny that so many of us do it that way, isn’t it? Especially considering people often need conceptual instruction rather than reams of technical info.
So yes, this is indeed an article about building a long-term Robotic Process Automation (RPA) strategy. But this one is actually readable, and you might actually take away a couple things.
Rule #1: Start Simple, Start Small
If you’re just starting to work with industrial robots, remember to focus on the basics and the fundamentals. When kids learn baseball, they don’t immediately learn how to hit the cutoff man and throw a slider. They learn where first base is.
It’s the same with any new endeavor. The best (and most cost-effective) way to learn is to start simply and know that you’ll grow your knowledge over time. I’ve seen plenty of horror stories where a company said goodbye to a thought-out robotics strategy and instead dropped seven figures on their first project.
It’s a much wiser move to spend somewhere between $100k and $200k on that first project. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. You and your team will learn what works best for you that you can take to future projects. Trust me on this one: you won’t know what you want from your first robotic system until after it’s running.
Whether it’s a DIY project or you’ve partnered with an integrator, know that you don’t have all the experience you want yet, and that that’s okay. Each project is a chance to position yourself better for the future.
Rule #2: Diversify Your Robotics Portfolio
This one is HUGE, and the basic truth goes beyond robotics. No matter what the industry is, we all tend to have strong loyalties for certain brands. It’s scientifically impossible to see a Mac user operate a PC without complaint, and vice versa.
In industrial robotics, whether your favorite jersey is yellow or red, a lot of us tend to leave that jersey on and never take it off. But in all honesty, you are doing your company a disservice if you do business that way.
Do I want to see you buy Kawasaki Robotics? Of course! That’d be great. But if I was your brother and you asked me if you should diversify your robot base, I’d give that question a big ol’ affirmative.
Here’s a quick list of pros and cons:
Pros of working with multiple robotics partners
- Protect against shortages
- Keep your suppliers honest
- Get the best deal
- Give employees more comprehensive training
- Move eggs to other baskets
- Benefit from engaged and motivated partners
- Foster rational decision making
- Harness partner strengths and avoid their weaknesses
Cons of working with multiple robotics partners
- Your floor will lose some of its color coordination
- End of list
You diversify your stock portfolio and know that practice to be a wise one. Why not do the same for your business and diversify your base of supply?
Rule #3: Training Needs to Happen Now and Later
Once you’ve chosen your robotics platforms (yes, plural), it’s time to get your people trained. Teach them the basics, and instill into your culture that no one company has a monopoly on the tech you use. Train them on PLCs like Siemens, Allen-Bradley and Omron. Train them on robots like Kawasaki (the best choice in my unbiased opinion), FANUC, ABB, KUKA or Yaskawa.
Doing it now is easier than later, when you have a massive base in place and you’re scrambling to teach everything. Start foundational, progress to advanced and lay the groundwork for long-term sustainability.
Rule #4: Know What You Want from Robotics Integrators
Two options here. The first is doing a lot of it yourself and bringing on an integrator in a consulting role.
They should have experience. They should have successful projects under their belt. But they should also fit naturally with you and your company culture.
Find out what they specialize in, what they’re good at. Partner up with the integrator consultants whose skills and experience match what you’re looking to do.
Find out what size of projects they like to work on. Find out how many programmers and engineers they have. How many mechanical, electrical, PLC experts on staff. This gives you an idea of what their resources are like.
Finally, ask them straight up if consulting is something they’re interested in. If they are, it’s off to the races.
So that’s option one. The second option is the full integration partners that do it all for you. It’s still important that they align with you culturally, but now it’s vital to focus on the application.
If, for example, you know that you’re only going to be palletizing, you may not need more than one integrator partner. But if you plan to execute a variety of projects, you’ll probably want more than one in the stable.
As you work with them, you’ll notice that Integrator A is really good with this specific application. Integrator B brings a ton of expertise, but they’re too expensive for the simple projects.
Looks like I went back to diversification again. To be fair, I can’t help it. It’s clearly the smartest way to do it. The more integrator partners you get to know now, the more you’ll understand their capabilities for future projects.
Whenever You Have Questions, Bring Them to Kawasaki
All of us at Kawasaki Robotics only know one way to do business: stress-free, collaborative, and with mutual respect. As you build your long-term robotic process automation strategy, we’re always here to help however we can.
Talk to us anytime. Doesn’t matter if you already have a robotics partner. We’ll gladly contribute to your diversified portfolio.