Manual to Robotic Cell Conversion

Once you have a robotic cell concept, comparing the robotic cell to the manual cell will help you evaluate whether or not you should move forward with the deployment project.

The book, Lean Robotics – A Guide to Making Robots Work in Your Factory recommends mapping the manual process and the robotic cell process, and then comparing the maps.

This article provides a checklist of questions to ask when comparing the manual and robotic cell process maps as advocated in the Lean Robotics book. Asking for input from stakeholders including engineers, operators, and maintenance personnel can help provide more complete answers.

How would the robotic cell affect KPIs?

Start with the KPIs defined in the manual task map. Would the robotic cell KPIs change or need to be measured in a different way?

Would the robotic cell improve quality?
Even if quality is a KPI, it’s worthwhile to look at it again in more detail, and be sure that quality is being defined and evaluated properly in terms of who the customer is, and what the customer needs, even in cases where the “customer” is the next step in the process.

Would the robotic cell affect the cell customer?

Does anything need to change on the customer side if a robotic cell were used? For example, if the robotic cell produces output slower than the manual cell and doesn’t take breaks, the pace will be affected. Can the customer cell accommodate the throughput of the robotic cell?

Would the robotic cell require an alteration to the current parts presentation or quality?

If the answer to this question is yes, it could negatively impact some of the cost and time-saving gains. For example, if the manual tasks involve picking up items from a disordered pile or inspecting and cleaning parts, the robotic cell will most likely require preliminary steps or modifications to earlier processes to address these issues. Be sure to account for this in your evaluation.

How would the robotic cell affect the layout?

Compare the actual layouts side by side and look for any potential problems caused by the differences. Does the robotic cell need to be fenced? Does any nearby equipment needs to be moved? How easy or difficult would it be to move that equipment?

How would the robotic cell reduce waste (time, materials, or non-value-added operations)?
In processes where robotic cells are ideal, such as repetitive, dangerous or dirty tasks, waste reduction should be easily quantifiable.