By: Flexxbotics May 2020

Mobile Cobot Redeployment

Why robotic technology allows manufacturers to mobile redeploy from
one machine to another improving ROI by 50% or better.

Industrial Robotic Beginnings

For the better part of the last 3 decades, robots have been designed to be fixed in one location on one high volume repetitive job. The ROI was simple; create an apparatus that can work longer, faster, cheaper and more reliably than a human on tasks that have extremely high demand and high volume. Automotive fit the mold for this type of automation and quickly adopted the technology for their repetitive and substantial assembly lines.

Fast forward today and a new type of robotic system has been making a stir in the automation market. Collaborative robots or cobots, first introduced in industrial settings in the late 2000’s, have exploded in use cases the last decade. Known most for being safe to interact with humans, collaborative robots tout other advantages such as easier to program, lighter weight and lower costs to acquire compared to standard industrial robots. No longer has there been a need for extremely high volumes to justify the business case for acquiring a robot. All types of manufacturing such as high mix low volume jobs can benefit from the cost savings and efficiency gained from automation.

Collaborative Robots: A New Way to Automate

Collaborative robots have opened the door for novel and innovative ways to automate a facility. From welding, polishing, dispensing, machine tending and more, cobots have expanded the way end users can utilize 6 axis robots. Cobots have introduced an entirely new way to apply 6 axis robotic arms; mobile redeployment. Their relatively easy programming and lightweight nature have laid the framework for end users to physically move the robot from one machine to another. Gone are the days of purchasing a robot, planting it in front of a job and repurposing your operators to other non-automated jobs. Universal Robots has paved the way with a fleet of versatile, fast setup and easily programmable cobots. UR cobots are designed perfectly for high-mix low-volume applications and make it much easier to justify the automation investment for small to medium sized businesses.

What Are the Financial Benefits of a Mobile Collaborative Robot?

So what exactly are the financial benefits a mobile 6 axis robot can provide in your facility as a business owner or floor manager? Consider the simple example of two machines (Machine A and Machine B) and one robot on Machine A. Machine A has the following job parameters:

1 Job (with a robot)
100 pieces
Cycle time of 5 mins
Setup time of 30 mins with a robot
Operator costs $20/hr
The total job takes 8 hrs to run
Each machine costs $170/job (setup time costs $10)

The operator on this shift spends a total of 30 minutes or about ~$10 dollars attributed to this job because the robot is tending the machine while it is running. Without the robot, $160 would have been attributed to the job while the operator was tending to it. Assuming the average 6 axis robot integration and equipment costs are around ~75k, you will achieve your ROI in about ~500 jobs or if you run the job once a day in about 1-1.5 years.

The operator on this shift spends a total of 30 minutes or about ~$10 dollars attributed to this job because the robot is tending the machine while it is running. Without the robot, $160 would have been attributed to the job while the operator was tending to it. Assuming the average 6 axis robot integration and equipment costs are around ~75k, you will achieve your ROI in about ~500 jobs or if you run the job once a day in about 1-1.5 years.

Fixed robot on one machine

Operator Cost/Year vs. automation type

ROC (years) vs. Automation type

There’s an evident problem with the scenario above; Machine B is not benefitting from the automation capability of your robot. Machine A has now seen higher throughput of material from more consistent manufacturing and while it has taken on more demand still has downtime during the week. What if the volume of Machine B does not justify the purchase of its own individual fixed robot? What if you could repurpose your one robot from Machine A to Machine B during Machine A’s downtime? What if you could accomplish it for under 10k?

Let’s evaluate the financial implications of splitting the robot’s time on multiple machines. For simplicity purposes, assume Machine B’s job has the same number of pieces, setup time and cycle time. With a mobile robot solution, Machine B now receives the same automation benefit of Machine A. If you split the robot’s time between both machines equally you can achieve your ROI in half the time. This same principle can be applied to mobily deploying a robot on three or even four machines. As you can imagine your ROI is achieved faster for every machine that is automated by one robot.

Mobile robot on two machines

Operator cost/year vs. automation type

As predicted, your operator cost goes significantly down the more you automate. What’s more important is the time it takes to an even ROI. How long do you want to wait for your automation investment to start making you money.

ROI (years vs. Automation type

If you split the robot’s time between both machines equally you can achieve your ROI in half the time. This same principle can be applied to mobily deploying a robot on three or even four machines. As you can imagine your ROI is achieved faster for every machine that is automated by one robot.

ROI (years) vs. # of machines with mobile redeployment

The financials are clear to repurpose your robot on multiple machines. You can increase the timeline to an even ROI by 45-75% depending on how many machines you can automate with one robot. If you needed justification for your next robot capital investment, the above should help make that decision easier. So now you are convinced to redeploy your robot or robots. How do you accomplish this? What is the most cost effective and efficient way to do this? Read on to find out how Flexxbotics and Vention can make this a reality.

How to redeploy a universal robot in 30 mins or less

Mobile robotic deployment presents a whole new set of programming and logistical complexities that can be overwhelming at first. An end user needs to be able to quickly redeploy the robot to obtain the financial benefits of time splicing a robot between multiple machines. An end user needs to focus on these three factors to effectively mobily deploy a robot from one machine to another.

• Physically moving the robot from one location to another
• Creating a repeatable fixture for the robot to program off of
• Reducing the complexity for the operator to switch from one program to another

The most efficient way to move a robot is to use a mobile stand. The most efficient way to design and assemble a robot mobile stand is through Vention’s Machine Builder. So now you have your mobile stand that you can roll the robot from one machine to another. So what happens when you roll the robot from Machine A to Machine B? You need a repeatable and efficient way to program the robot so it can quickly begin the job Machine B. Flexx Connect by Flexxbotics empowers any skill level operator the ability to get a redeployed robot up in under 30 minutes.

Flexx Connect consists of a localization tool Flexx Reference and a connectivity tool Flexx Beacon. They combine under one URCap and can be operated by an intuitive toolbar in Polyscope.

Flexx Reference is a mechanical and software solution to program the UR robot relative to a reference point in a workstation.

Flexx Beacon is a bluetooth communication device/software that allows a robot to understand where it is relative to strategic locations in your manufacturing floor through bluetooth beacons and scanners. It then prompts the operator on which program to run and which Flexx Feature to update.

Flexx Reference

Flexx Beacon

Furthermore, a user has the option to mechanically combine Vention hardware with the Flexx Reference and Flexx Beacon hardware in Vention’s MachineBuilder. Vention has a useful blog explaining how this easily can be done with pre designed mobile machine tending assemblies.

With the mobile options available today, a robot should never stay idle. Whether you’re thinking about purchasing a new robot for multiple jobs or repurposing an existing robot consider utilizing the most efficient and user friendly mobile solution. Your operators and bottom line will thank you.

For more info on the Flexx Reference feel free to reach out to sales@flexxbotics.com