Over half of manufacturers (55%) in the UK say that time-consuming manual programming is required for robots to complete welding, cutting, painting or other tasks on the factory floor, according to new research by Visual Components, the developer of 3D simulation software.
A third of manufacturers (35%) state that this process takes between a week and a month, with robots unable to complete automated tasks during this time. 73% of US manufacturers and almost all French companies (98%) also say the same.
With excessive time needed to get robots up and running, utilisation rates are poor among manufacturers, with an average of 37% reported. This is delaying the opportunity to bring products into production quicker, as they are unable to take care of the repetitive actions that humans are currently performing, with over a third of all processes falling under this description (34%).
One in four (26%) manufacturers are also being hindered by having three or more different robot brands on the factory floor, further complicating programming procedures. Over three in ten (32%) French respondents deploy three or more different robot brands.
With only 8% of manufacturers having had cobots (collaborative robots) in place for a prolonged period of time, fears among employees in the time taken to program them effectively may be preventing wider uptake, despite the benefit of cobots to achieve an error-free consistent production rate compared to human handling, removing the laborious tasks from people.
“Robots and cobots are highly valuable technologies in the factory environment, but manual programming is impacting on the ability of manufacturers to fully utilise their capabilities. Offline robot programming (OLP) allows operators to combine the planning and designing of a new robot work cell in a virtual environment.
“Offline programming avoids any disruption to production and ensures that robots get to work much quicker, leading to increases in productivity and output,” said Mikko Urho, CEO, Visual Components.