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Certainty in an Uncertain World (Part 2)

competitive advantage

Industry 4.0



Published on

Jul 11, 2022

How Can Manufacturers Protect Their Business from Staffing Shortages and Other Uncertainties? Balancing labor shortages, recruiting headaches, retaining top talent, and the increased cost of raw materials, managing a manufacturing operation or a machine shop can be more difficult than ever.

Read Time: 5 Minutes

Word Count: 1285 Words

Key Takeaway: Our robot gives you control over production and costs that you can't get any other way.

As a leader, your focus must always be on the things you can control. One of the things you can control is production rates. Another thing you can control is spindle utilization. To keep customers happy, you need to gain better control over your delivery dates.

To accomplish all of that, adding a purpose-built, CNC machine-tending robot makes sense.

Adding a robot almost seems counter to common wisdom. Why would adding a CNC machine tending robot make sense?

First, you get control over production schedules. Having that control over production schedules allows you to keep your delivery promises you make for your customers.

With a human machine operator, you have little to no control over them and their production rate. You can’t control when the call off. You can’t control their pace of work.

You can control them coming back from lunch on time. But that takes supervisory time that can be used for other efforts. If you have to spend time herding people back from lunch on time, you’ve got the wrong people.

The same holds true for the machine operator looking at their phone when they should be loading/unloading the CNC machine. You can allocate supervisory time and attention for that, but is that really the best use of supervisory time?

You’ve probably got the wrong person in the job, but, given how hard it can be to find a machine operator, the devil you know can be better than the devil you don’t.

An entry level machine operator in Illinois is paid $20,000 to $31,000/year. Those costs are not fully loaded. An experienced machine operator is paid $30,000 to $47,000/year. Again, those costs are not fully loaded. Add another 30% for the benefits package.

Having a purpose-built, CNC machine-tending robot changes all of that. You no longer have to allocate supervisory time and attention to ensure that the robot is doing its job. You program the robot in three or four minutes. You push the green button, and you go do something else. The robot does the rest.

More importantly, with the robot in place, you can now make accurate quotes much faster. These days, studies show that the lowest price doesn’t always get the business. Often the winning bid is the first bid back.

If you can quote quicker and respond to customers faster, that is an advantage. If you can keep the delivery promises you make, that is a true competitive advantage. The purpose-built, CNC machine tending robot can do that for you.

That CNC machine-tending robot can help you come right down the cost curve. Again, that seems counter-intuitive. How can spending money on a robot help you come down the cost curve?

First, the robot allows you to do a job with much less labor. It also allows you to do that same job much faster than you would if you had a human tending the machine. Think about how many jobs you’ve run where the operator has turned at 43 parts/hour run into 35 parts/hour. Spread out that kind of performance over a year, and the numbers add up. Your biggest problem is that those numbers are hard to find and tally.

Having a purpose-built, CNC machine tending robot also allows you to move more of your production into “lights out manufacturing.” You can program the robot to do a job right before you leave for the evening. Depending on job size, when you come back either the job will be finished or the robot will still be tending the machine.

Running with “lights out manufacturing” has tons of advantages. Running with no labor is one thing. But the real advantage comes with the ability to expand production hours with no labor. Instead of running that CNC machine for 1 shift a day, you can easily increase that spindle time to two shifts a day. And if your team is working Saturdays, the extra spindle time really adds up.

We’ve seen customers use the robot to run jobs for 13 hours straight. Imagine how long it might take to have a human tending the CNC machine for that same job. Having the robot makes a significant difference.

But that robot can do much more.

One of the things that has taken many of our customers by surprise is that they find recruiting young people much easier when they have a robot tending the CNC machine.

First, young people see that the company is serious about the future. They know they will be there for the long haul. That gives young workers hope. They need that.

There is also something of a “robot cool” factor that plays in. People like innovation. And a CNC machine tending robot can be innovative.

Customers also tell us that team morale improves when they add a robot. It starts with the machine operator. They no longer have that incredibly boring job of loading and unloading the CNC machine. That employee gets to do something different in the organization where they can add more value to the product. That makes them feel good.

Like ill-will spreading throughout an organization, good will can spread too. Don’t take our word for it. Ask our customers. They will tell you that the teams feel better and can upskill. They will also tell you that they didn’t expect that to happen. While they were surprised when it did happen, they were none-the-less thrilled.

Lots of Robots!

Anywhere you look and you’ll see robots. They are cleaning floors, flipping burgers, delivering food, tending bar, welding cars. The list of robots is very long.

When we talk about robots, we always talk about “purpose-built” robots. We do that for a very specific reason.

The market is filled with robot solutions. At first, they can all seem to be the same. If not identical, they can seem to be similar. Nothing could be further from the truth. In general, robots are built to perform specific tasks. The way they are built supports the tasks the robot was designed to execute. If you try to get a robot to do something other than the tasks for which it was created, things may not go well.

Some companies take a one size fits no one approach. They have one robot and they say it will do anything and everything. While that may sound good in a marketing meeting, that doesn’t play well.

Implementing a purpose-built, CNC machine tending robot makes sense because that robot was purpose built, from day one, to do only one thing. It was designed to tend a CNC machine. Our robots are extraordinarily efficient at tending a CNC machine.

It won’t clean the floor. It won’t flip burgers. It won’t weld. It won’t do any of those things because it wasn’t designed to do them. You should get a different robot if you want it to do any of those things.

Our robot was only designed to tend the CNC machine. That is why we always talk about a purpose-built robot. It is what makes the most sense for tending a CNC machine.

Manufacturing and machine shop leaders need to find certainty in uncertain times wherever they can. While you can’t control the price of steel, you can control labor costs. More importantly, you can control the amount of labor you are using in a job. Running “lights out manufacturing” more than maximizes your spindle utilization. It fundamentally expands your production capabilities without adding bodies, a new CNC machine, or adding a wing on the plant.

Adding a purpose-built, CNC machine tending robot is an answer to the question, how do I find certainty in uncertain times?

To start your discovery process, contact your RoboJob-USA account executive.

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