4 tips: Successful automation in SMEs

4 tips: Successful automation in SMEs

4 tips: Successful automation in SMEs

Omron has compiled four key aspects that should be considered right from the start of automation projects in order to drive projects forward, reduce scepticism and get stakeholders on board.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are an integral part of the economy. In Germany, for example, SMEs make a significant contribution to net value added, accounting for over 60 per cent. Around 18.5 million people in Germany are employed in an SME. The problem: in many places it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the right employees. Companies are therefore urgently required to find new ways to find and retain suitable employees. Technologies that take over manual and repetitive tasks can increase safety and efficiency.

Cobots are ideal for SMEs because of their flexibility and many different possible applications. However, those dealing with this topic for the first time are faced with a mountain of questions and considerations.

1. focus on application scenarios and scale up slowly
The first question should not be: should we invest in robotics? Instead: Which processes can be made more efficient and how? When getting started with automation, it is advisable to start with small projects and then gradually scale up and add new workflows. An example: operators of a large bakery have not considered how a robot can be used, but how breads, for example, can be transferred from the assembly line to the bins destined for the bakery branches without the use of an employee.

2. using robots for support
The use of robots does not mean replacing employees. Instead, it is about a well-orchestrated interaction between humans and machines. Medium-sized companies in particular should focus on individual tasks at the beginning and not think and plan too complexly. An expansion of the cobot, for example with a camera and image processing system, is still possible later. The focus is on: How can robotics help employees? Which manual tasks can be handed over to a robot so that the employee can concentrate on value-added tasks? Loading and unloading machines as well as palletising and depalletising are processes that can be automated relatively quickly and easily. Welding is also a good example of the use of robots in SMEs.

3. get employees on board and specialise
Robotics is not a panacea or a replacement for humans. He remains the specialist, the robot takes over repetitive and monotonous tasks. Specialists are still needed, for example for assembly, process optimisation and maintenance. While robots take over palletising, sorting, material loading or quality control, employees can be more creative and add value. However, in order to free up resources, employees need to be trained. Only in this way can they use the new technologies optimally and use the resources they have gained in a sensible way.

4. focus on appropriate technologies
Cobots are well suited for SMEs because they are easy to set up and offer a fast and cost-effective solution. They help SMEs to act more flexibly and quickly and to respond better to changing market conditions. However, care must be taken to choose a robot that can start up quickly and remain in operation. This is the only way to reduce downtime. It is therefore advisable to opt for technology and service from a single source, so that the cobots can be used directly and without lengthy training or adjustments. Another point is that the solution should offer a high return on investment and the option to adapt to new production processes and arrangements within a short time.

Nine out of ten companies want to introduce robot automation in their respective infrastructures by 2030. Mobile robots and cobots are easy to deploy and transport in this context. This makes them a good option for companies that want to make their production processes more flexible and efficient.

How high the investment can be at the beginning? That is what Omron's ROI calculator shows. It helps to easily evaluate investments in cobots and mobile robots. This way, companies of all sizes can benefit from the automation potential and do not have to worry about opaque or difficult-to-predict costs.