SMEs have been left behind in the smart manufacturing race. But better late than never.
Autonomous mobile robots are an ideal place to start or expand automation in the supply-chain. They can handle repetitive manual tasks and increase productivity and efficiency of manual labour by giving them time for more skilled activities. They can help SMEs manage rising costs, labour shortages and employee safety in a better way.
“SMEs with processes that can be standardised and are low value adding (e.g. repetitive and/or hazardous activities) might be good candidates for first waves of adoption,” says Aristides Matopoulos, Head, Department of Engineering Systems & Supply Chain Management at Aston University. “SMEs might also need to consider alternative ownership options Robot as a Service (RaaS) solutions similar to the Software as a Service (SaaS) business model which has been proven very popular for SMEs,” he elaborates.
On the Money Trail
Fortunately for SMEs, the return on Investment for mobile robots is no longer a big problem.
Since mobile robots are more standardised and no longer the exclusivity of large companies as they are more affordable. This also means they are easy to implement and designed to work safely around humans. According to research the autonomous mobile robot (AMR) market will grow at a CAGR of 17% to reach USD 12.4 billion by 2030, compared to USD 2.7 billion in 2020. The warehouse fleet management segment is expected to see significant growth in this period.
Today SME’s can use robotics for a variety of jobs including material handling, packaging, routine welding and finishing and machine tending. According to reports, the payback time for a robot could typically range between 6-18 months depending on the initial investment.
Heinrich Jostkleigrewe, Director Sales – AGV systems at K.Hartwall says, “The return on investments for autonomous mobile robots is getting lower all the time. Nowadays, mobile robots are also versatile enough to be used for a variety of tasks.”
“Mobile robots or Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are also a great way to increase traceability and accuracy in operations and optimise workflow as they seamlessly connect logistics with operations,” he explains.
For instance, K.Hartwall’s Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) or A-MATE reduces dependence labour for repetitive tasks and is ideal for sites with space constraints and narrow aisles. This new generation omnidirectional mobile robot has 360 degrees safety scanners and is also safe to use in interaction with humans. The best part is that it can be used with a combination of traditional load carrier solutions such as roll containers, lean adaptor pallets and dollies or foldable cages already in use in warehouses or plants.
The A-MATE has exceptional runtime on a single battery charge and free lifting capability to handle loads of 1000 kg (1 tonne) up to a height of 1 meter. It can also pick loads to and from conveyor belts and transport them safely amidst other traffic to off-loading positions.
Thanks to its fleet management system the A-MATE mobiles robots are able to communicate with each other optimising the flow of goods and reducing the risks for accidents.
“A-MATE is a unique solution for increasing supply chain sustainability, flexibility, safety and productivity. It is easily deployable. In many ways it is the complete package that SMEs are looking for,” concludes Jostkleigrewe.