Robotics’ Top 10 Lessons Learned in the 2010’s

Robotics' Top 10

Robotics’ Top 10

This article on the Robotics’ Top 10 is from Robotics Business Review by Daniel Theobald.

  1. It always takes longer than you think it will: This may sound dire, but development and adoption always take longer than you think it will, until it doesn’t. In the past decade, we saw many exciting robotics companies come and go, including JiboCyPhy Works, and Rethink Robotics. All these were based on great ideas by great people, but they could not make it to profitability in time, and timing is everything. Ensure runway, stay lean, and share resources.
  2. Share resources: While software startups can bring their idea to life in Dad’s garage or a college dorm room, startups that deal with hardware grapple with a different set of problems — specifically access to space for development and testing, as well as expensive equipment. Robotics incubators like MassRobotics can mitigate the risks and the need for high upfront investment while also enabling a cross-collaborative environment.
  3. Establish industry standards: Organizations like MassRobotics can also foster rapid industry advancement by spearheading industry standards. When you work in close quarters to other robotics companies, you realize that a) You don’t have to reinvent the wheel – instead, you can save time and money by leveraging what has been done before, and b) Interoperability is the key to the advancement of the industry as a whole.
  4. Safety first: Worker safety is paramount to the adoption of automated solutions. One safety incident caused by an autonomous unit can set the entire industry back years. If the workers fundamentally don’t trust their new equipment, there will be poor adoption rates, and the technology will never take. In the same way that a car might have lane-assist technology, sensorized material handling equipment can provide the glide path for businesses to embrace the robotics across all sectors.
  5. Automate familiar equipment: Over the past decade, we watched robotics firms try to introduce completely new ways of moving material. These firms encountered an uphill battle because, over the years, companies have built out significant infrastructure around certain kinds of equipment. Automating the machines that their workers already know offers a smoother migration path to automation than expecting them to adopt new way of doing things. Purchasing equipment that is both familiar to production floor workers and automation-ready smooths adoption considerably.
  6. Flexibility is key: The industry and the technology within it are quickly evolving. In this ever-changing environment, flexibility and adaptability are key to staying on top. Most logistics companies do not have the means for a full rip and replace, and e-commerce order picking is only one small piece of the overall job. It’s likely that adopting a variety of platforms that are able to interoperate in an unstructured environment will better address their variety of needs.
  7. Optimize workflows: Rather than seeking to automate parts of an existing process, look for the bigger win. Mapping out the current workflow from beginning to end can help to reduce non-value-add activities and determine the tasks best suited for today’s autonomous solutions.
  8. Promote, don’t replace: There is a real shortage of labor in the material handling industry, making the human workforce a valuable resource. Humans and robots should be considered as part of the same system that must work together seamlessly. A well-devised solution incorporates the best of human problem-solving with the best of automated solutions to deploy the right resource to the right place at the right time. This system has the potential to promote human labor to a more interesting, creative, and less dangerous, repetitive role.
  9. Crawl, walk, run: There is so much information about this emerging and quickly evolving field that users are nervous to commit to one solution over another. The anxieties are understandable: “Which vendor offers the best product for me? What if the one I invest my team’s time, money, and energy in doesn’t work out? What if there’s a newer, better product in six months? Or worse, what if my chosen vendor goes out of business?” Major rip-and-replace solutions can be challenging because the massive investment necessary to get to confidence is often impractical. Instead, it’s best to take the “Crawl, Walk, Run” approach. Make the initial adoption small, gain confidence in the system, and then scale.
  10. Real-time orchestration is key: Automating existing stand-alone processes has been shown to increase productivity, but at a large shipper using the Vecna Robotics Pivotal Orchestration system can increase productivity significantly by orchestrating the hand-offs between various autonomous systems and human workers. Pivotal receives real-time messages from the production floor and dispatches the right agent – whether robot, manual truck, or human – to the right job at the right time, adding increased flexibility and resilience to the workflow.

robotics’ top 10 robotics’ top 10 robotics’ top 10

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