Not all automation systems are created EQUAL
February 17, 2021
Colin Wells discusses the importance of ensuring your investment in automation technology is not only the best value for money today, but also ﬂexible enough to create viable options for your business well into the future, saving costs for your company many times over and a considerable amount of angst moving forward.
By way of explanation…
Over 25 years ago, if you invested in technology for your plant it most likely would have involved a lot of dedicated and inﬂexible equipment. A typical high-speed palletiser would have been a dedicated layer machine that was complex, limited, high in maintenance and full of single points of failure.
Since then, many of these dedicated solutions have been methodically replaced with ﬂexible automated robot-based solutions. But these systems were often surrounded and ‘hemmed in’ by conventional out-of- date conveyor technology.
However, with the current level of technology now available, it is possible to create solutions that offer the end user more future ﬂexible options with the ability to signiﬁcantly modify their systems to meet their ever-changing needs.
Some of these early robotic solutions have proved themselves adaptable enough over the years, clocking up many millions of pallets reliably.
RA is currently in the process of replacing one such system which is “25 years and not out” – an impressive innings. This is a testament to an organisation embracing the right technology which has served them very well.
However, these early robotic-based solutions can have difﬁculties taking advantage of future opportunities particularly within an increasingly complex ANZ market.
What is the answer?
Progress has changed gears and ﬁnally gone up a notch or two in the world of ﬂexible automation opportunities. For example, if you add into the recipe the following elements for a typical high-speed palletiser such as:
- Easy-to-use AGVs running on a Windows-based platform
- The embedding of AGVs with robots creating the ﬂexibility required
- Flexible and intelligent high-tech robot gripper technology
- An embedded WMS system that can work hand- in-hand with the above
Now you have a solution that is truly ﬂexible, can be edited to meet future needs and is bristling with Industry 4.0 features, thus providing a myriad of reporting capabilities at your ﬁngertips.
“Progress has changed gears and finally gone up a notch or two in the world of ﬂexible automation opportunities”
The previous palletising example applies to a lot of industrial applications and is very relevant to our market. ANZ automation solutions have always been known internationally for innovation and held in high regard.
A word of caution…
Companies should not confuse “waiting for the latest solution” with understanding the need to acquire a truly ﬂexible automation solution. COVID-19 has taught us that hard lesson, and we would all be well advised to heed the learnings.
Additionally, it needs to be kept in mind that the implementation of such systems can take a year from start to completion (refer to previous article ‘Timely Automation Takes Time’).
Just imagine how much costs the last generation of robotic palletisers have saved for thousands of companies within ANZ over the past 25 years or so.
Additional beneﬁts can be expected from the new generation of intelligent automation systems – and is there for the taking. It is surely looking like now is the right time for end users to engage.