Automating industrial processes through the implementation of robotics and tailored software is transforming production lines globally. This shift has been called Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and many Industry 4.0 transformations have relied on it. 

But why are so many manufacturers rushing to integrate robots and smart machinery to replace or support manual tasks? The benefits can be numerous and we’ve taken a deeper look at some of the key ones.

1. 24/7 operation

One of the most obvious benefits of automating production lines is the ability of robots to operate continuously, day and night, for weeks at a time. While staff work for set periods and need to take regular breaks during those periods, robots work tirelessly until something needs resetting, repairing or reprogramming. BARA (British Association of Robots and Automation) have reported that the automotive industry has seen a 50% increase in productivity through RPA since 20091.

2. Cost reductions

The scalability of robotic automation means that increasing output comes far more quickly and at lower endcost than relying on a human workforce alone. While the initial outlay may seem high, McKinsey states that the cost of robots has fallen by half over the last 30 years2, and ROI can be achieved within between six months and two years, depending on which ROI calculator you use.

3. Maintaining consistency

For production lines where consistency and quality control are essential, robots deliver clear advantages as each action is repeated identically time after time. There are few, if any, humans who can sustain that sort of uniformity over the course of several hours. Consistency in production results in fewer rejected parts and less waste resulting in lower operational costs, not to mention the improved reputation of the manufacturer.

4. Industry 4.0 advantages

Industry 4.0, or the IIOT, is driving investment and innovation in manufacturing as factories look to introduce increased efficiencies and greater integration. Robots produce, collect and process a huge amount of data and can be configured to report on their own health status, level of productivity, rate of inspection and other information that can be combined with data from other sources to give Operations Managers a clear picture of what’s going on all over the factory floor. Connecting different aspects of the production cycle and creating actionable analytics is made much simpler and quicker.

5. Safety benefits

While humans may be limited by physical confines and employment law as to how much weight they can lift and which tools to use for certain tasks, robots can operate outside these boundaries. The forces which a robot can both apply and withstand make their strength and resilience far superior to their operators’. Robots can also function in hazardous environments, such as being exposed to higher temperatures, low levels of light or even amongst noxious gases.

5. Flexible learners

While a human employee may take days or weeks to be trained into a new task, a robot can be up to speed within hours. Customising robotics is a specialist skill but accessible software and straightforward firmware makes it possible to adapt robots to new projects such as an alteration in the item being inspected, or the size of the part being manufactured. So, new requirements on the production line can be instigated quickly and efficiently.

How can Steatite support your automation project?

We have a huge range of computing, power and imaging products which are designed to simplify the implementation of robotics in automation processes. But even prior to this, we have specialists on hand to talk you through your project requirements and end goals before we delve into the stock room. Understanding what you want to achieve from a robotic system is paramount, and having the means to measure the benefits and ROI of the application will ensure scalability and future success. 

Our industrial embedded computers are designed specifically for data processing at the edge, allowing advanced automation without the latency and security risks of having to relay data to the cloud. Built on some of the most powerful processors available, we have readily-available stock for both prototyping and mass delivery.  

Steatite robotics controllers are optimised for use with ROS2 (Robot Operating System) to simplify product development and reduce time to market. Using high MTBF (mean time between failures) industrial components ensures long-term reliability, and system-wide communications connect multiple devices via DDS (Data Distribution Services). 

NVIDIA Jetson AI inference computers for object detection bring additional safety measures to the factory floor, allowing robotics to operate safely alongside human colleagues and physical barriers. Modules deliver powerful computing to accelerate deep learning workloads for recognition and classification, making training your robot simple and fast. 

For mobile robotics, our Battery team has decades of experience creating consistent and highly-reliable power packs for automation projects. Fully customisable, batteries can be designed to fit any available space, leveraging the most suitable cell chemistries. Our bespoke battery management systems help to further increase the lifetime and performance of each battery, giving operators full visibility over the health of each cell. 

For automation applications requiring high-speed, high-resolution image acquisition, frame grabbers from our imaging business unit, Active Silicon, introduce speed, accuracy and machine control to static robots. Our range of Harrier autofocus-zoom cameras are ideal for mobile robots, allowing real-time Full HD image and video capture in a compact and cost-effective unit.  

There are clear, easily-achievable benefits to be gained from implementing robotics to your automation processes. Our experts will spend time understanding your requirements so we can design a solution that will bring measurable advantages to your industrial application. 

Contact our team:

Andy Weekes 
Andy heads up our Computing business unit and brings specialist technical knowledge from industrial, military and commercial sectors with a focus on delivering AI and managing complex solutions for global systems. 
andrew.weekes@steatite.co.uk 

Matt Brindle 
As Senior Account Manager in the Computing business unit, Matt specialises in the design and sales of long-life industrial and embedded computers. 
matt.brindle@steatite.co.uk 

Dave Carlton 
Managing our Batteries business unit sales team, Dave has extensive technical knowledge of battery design and manufacture and advises on building bespoke power packs for a wide range of applications.
dave.carlton@steatite.co.uk 

Frans Vermeulen 
Frans is Head of Sales and Marketing at our Imaging business unit, Active Silicon, and has decades of experience in supplying imaging products to enhance medical, defence, industrial and scientific systems.
frans.vermeulen@activesilicon.com