The capacity to automate using pricey robotic technologies has given major conglomerates a significant competitive advantage over small and medium-sized businesses for a long time. As a result, they are always ahead of the competition in terms of volume, end-product quality, and production costs.
Are we at a point where SMEs can compete with larger companies on automation with current robotic solutions?
Robots for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
The status quo has long been that only the largest corporations could afford to buy and operate large-scale industrial robots at their facilities. However, thanks to the emergence of new robot manufacturers whose primary focus is SMEs, this has changed today. Today, SMEs have access to cheaper, more efficient, and fit-for-purpose robotic solutions and go toe to toe with large competitors in their space.
The best thing about the emergence of SME-focused robotic solutions though is that the robots are small, lightweight, and easy to deploy and maintain. These characteristics make robotic automation in-reach for small and medium-sized enterprises that cannot afford to purchase or lease big industrial robots.
Size Matters When It Comes to SME Automation
A robot made for an SME is a fraction of the size of a large-scale industrial robot but may have more or less the same capabilities in terms of operation. For instance, you can get a small six-axis robot for a few thousand dollars that does similar tasks an expensive industrial six-axis robot does. The output of the smaller robot will be substantially lower than that of the larger one, but few SMEs compete on volume with large corporations.
Collaboratives Robots- Suited For SMEs?
A new type of work robot known as collaborative robot seems promising for the SME sector. Collaborative robots, unlike traditional robots, are designed to work alongside humans which may be ideal for small and medium-sized companies that still rely on human labor or do not have the resources to go fully automatic.
What Makes Collaborative Robots Attractive To SMEs?
Collaborative robots have many advantages that may be attractive to small and medium-sized enterprises. Here are some of them:
Easy to Deploy and Maintain
The ease with which current collaborative robots may be set up, both in terms of hardware and software, is their primary advantage. High-level expert procedures and setups are necessary for hours upon hours to get a standard industrial robot up and operating. You can set up a Cobot in approximately an hour and start using it straight away if you have no prior experience.
In addition to that, the software settings that come with modern cobots are easy to grasp and allow a lot of flexibility. In contrast, traditional industrial robots usually necessitate the employment of an expert or having to pay the manufacturer large sums of money for initial setup and maintenance.
Collaborative Robots Have Enhanced Safety
Collaborative robots are significantly safer to operate than ordinary industrial robots by design. Cobot manufacturers have to follow international standards set by the ISO. Their design and mode of operation must meet exact technical requirements in ISO/TS 15066:2016.
Cobots are made to work alongside human operators so they have a wide range of safety features and are designed from the ground up to be safer than normal industrial robots. In most deployments, you will not need safety fencing for collaborative robots.
Collaborative Robots are Versatile
The versatility of collaborative robots is one of the reasons for their popularity. Cobots may be dismantled, modified, and reprogrammed to perform a wide range of tasks in your company. This makes them ideal for SMEs that may not have the resources to buy new robots for every process they add to their setup.
As an example, a small E-commerce warehousing provider can use the same Cobots to aid workers in packaging and sorting by installing alternative robot arms or just changing end-effectors. This way one robot is used for two functions or processes.
Low Initial and Operational Costs
This is perhaps the biggest reason why SMEs should consider using collaborative robots as opposed to normal industrial robots. Because of their lower starting and operating costs than typical industrial robots, cobots have completely disrupted the robotics sector. If you are an SME, you can purchase or lease cobots for a fraction of the amount you could need for traditional robots.
SME Industrial Robots Are Soaring
According to a recent industry report, SMEs are expanding their investments in machinery and automation. While SME manufacturing robot adoption is still modest (16%), there is a lot of promise in the future given the case studies we’ve seen so far of SMEs automating with SME industrial robots.
How Should SMEs Go About Purchasing Industrial Robots?
Prioritize companies who manufacture and sell robots to SMEs
In today’s market, there are two types of robot producers. The first is the industry’s long-standing robot and automation producers, while the second are newcomers who are targeting SMEs with smaller, more cheap robots.
SMEs looking for robotic solutions should be looking at the new entrants because they are the ones that have the solutions that suit the SME sector. Because they developed the sector in the first place, the new entrants bring fresh perspectives to SME automation. Their robotic solutions are designed with “new thinking,” which leads to lower costs, more inventive solutions, and improved customer service.
Look for robotic systems that are simple to integrate
The majority of small businesses have limited power sources and production floors for caged industrial robots. As a result, when purchasing industrial robots, ease of integration and deployment should be a factor.
Be sure that the new robots will be able to fit into current working spaces or if they can be retrofitted into existing workstations. Fortunately, several current SME robot manufacturers are aware of these realities and have developed SME robotic solutions that can be placed anywhere and with relative ease.
All in all, SMEs have every reason to be excited about the prospects of competing with the big boys when it comes to automation. Gone are the days when robots were the preserve of big conglomerates with fat bank accounts.