Is there such a factor as "too small to automate"?

Rene Rose

Short answer, no. Why is this mindset so ingrained in the minds of SME manufacturers?

From Positiv Pty Ltd Australia Director Rene Rose

The belief that only large manufacturers can benefit from implementing automation into their processes is the result of widespread misunderstandings about the real purpose of automated tools.

With automated tools such as Universal Robot's collaborative robots (cobots), some SMBs may find these unnecessary as many SMBs do not face the same workforce challenges as larger manufacturers. Large manufacturers are generally attracted to cobots because they can bridge the skilled labor gap and the high labor costs.

However, SMBs are beginning to realize that the real competitive advantage of automated tools like cobots is flexibility – an advantage for any business regardless of size. This flexibility is evident in the adaptability of the technology, which can be customized and scaled down to meet the unique needs of smaller manufacturers.

There is no longer any room for a "one-size-fits-all" approach, and nowhere is this truer than in automation.

The type of SME production is often high-mix and low-volume. This is where flexibility is most urgently needed and best suited for a cobot to automate processes. Interestingly, Universal Robots invented cobots to meet this specific need, but 15 years later they are still finding resistance in the SME market as smaller manufacturers often do not yet understand the possibilities that cobots can offer.

Cobots can be used in applications such as packaging and palletizing, assembling, welding, machine maintenance, polishing, loading and material handling, and provide excellent accuracy in quality inspection.

In addition to flexibility, the technological capabilities of these tools are a major advantage of automation, which helps to improve the playing field against competitors with more manpower and resources and thus enable them to compete with larger manufacturers.

While cobots would be seen as a significant initial financial investment for an SMB, automation will reduce manufacturing costs over the long term and achieve ROI in just six months. SMEs can increase their production without increasing the workforce, including resuming production once “official” working hours have expired or, in recent circumstances, when workers cannot complete the job due to Covid restrictions

Financing and leasing options for cobots are available for those who may not have enough money to make an initial investment. These options allow companies to always have the latest technology with a low monthly payback.

While the factors listed above make it clear that there is no such thing as “too small to automate,” it is important to approach the process with clear objectives, and not just automate to automate.

It is highly recommended that SMBs with limited resources start small and look for projects that generate “easy profits” to maximize the value of your original investment. However, if small manufacturers are strategically careful about how they use automation in their factory, they can virtually increase production, increase profitability, and ensure quality control, all of which gives them an edge in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Wake up a sleeping giant

About Rene Rose and Positiv

With a handful of experience in the advertising and marketing industry, Rene got a job as a marketing manager at a multinational gearbox solutions company. It didn't seem like her dream job, but it became the love of her life. She worked her way up and founded her own company, Positiv, in 2015, which specializes in marketing for the manufacturing sector. Positively takes care of large multinational companies and local manufacturers.

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