Lean robotics is the evolution of lean manufacturing for machine shops.
A mere ten years ago, machine shops of precision parts would say, “Ninety percent of ‘lean’ is useless to us.” Specializing in high-end, low-volume, complex parts made from hard-to-machine materials meant that robotics were too costly to implement¹. Collaborative robots have changed labor, production, and process ROI calculations for parts manufacturers.
Fusion OEM Doubles Production Capacity in their Machine Shop
Fusion OEM specializes in part machining for customers in the midwestern USA. This high-mix, low-volume factory operates 14 CNC machines. Employees found a way to increase productivity by adding four Universal Robots, equipped with Robotiq’s UR+ certified Hand-E, Force Copilot, and Insights, over the span of a year. Running a job with this setup doubles production throughput and is four times cheaper than operating manually.
Lean Robotics interprets the following concepts from Lean Manufacturing:Bouchard, Samuel. Lean Robotics: A Guide to Making Robots Work in Your Factory . Levis, Quebec (2018)
Customer Value — Defining value from the customer’s point of view — As the robot’s “customer” is viewed as the next stage in the manufacturing process, “customer value” is whatever is important to that next stage.
Value Chain Creation — Mapping the chain of activities that produce this value — This involves looking at all the actions taken by the robot to identify which of them add value.
Waste Elimination — Conserving resources and eliminating waste throughout the entire value chain — This should happen at every stage of robotic deployment: design, implementation and operation.
Continuous Improvement — Continually taking small steps to improve the process and take it closer to perfection — Deploying robots involves a steep learning curve for members of your team. Instead of trying to learn everything at once, we recommend building your team’s robotic skills little by little.
Lean Robotics are Lean Manufacturing principles made possible because of the unique characteristics of collaborative robots. Deploying a cobot is unlike past robotic implementations because of their ease of use. Typical robot programming has been reduced to step-by-step instructions, and add-on applications make peripherals easy to integrate, e.g. vision systems, end-of-arm tools, monitoring software.
Small scale Lean allows for large scale improvements.Alex Owen-Hill, Robotiq blog (2017)
Basically, Lean Robotics is a method that helps machine shops and manufacturers deploy lean concepts that were previously unattainable before collaborative robots. It applies Lean principles to collaborative robotics to make integration as straightforward as possible.² Machine shops that produce small runs of customized, precision parts are able to reduce production times and costs in a way that was unavailable to them just ten years ago.
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¹ “Lean Manufacturing For The Job Shop”, Modern Machine Shop; 11/16/2007
² “What’s the Difference Between Lean Robotics and Lean Manufacturing?”, Alex Owen-Hill (2017)