The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) reports that robot mobility is booming. Unit sales of AMRs in the logistics sector is forecasted to increase by 31 per cent between 2020 and 2023 annually. AMRs in public environments will rise rapidly, with unit sales expected to grow by 40 per cent per year worldwide.
Traditionally, AMRs operate in industrial settings to transport parts within a factory or to supply machines. Today, their applications have gone beyond the factory floor, as they work in close proximity with the general public. This includes disinfecting malls, transporting materials or medicine within a hospital, delivering room service orders in hotels and even supporting the police force by patrolling areas.
COVID-19 has been a strong growth driver as automation and digitalisation become critical in strengthening businesses amid supply chain disruptions and workforce shortages. Many companies decided to re-shore their operations and in turn, face rising labour costs in those markets.
AMRs are helping businesses tap into the benefits of industry 4.0 by enhancing manufacturing and material transportation processes, thus successfully resolving these COVID-19 challenges in numerous ways.
However, AMRs can be daunting for those who are new to them. Most businesses don’t have a clear idea about when to implement AMRs, which processes should be automated, how to safely deploy an AMR and the benefits they can derive from automation.
This whitepaper provides an overview of what to consider and the steps to take for a successful AMR implementation.
When to deploy an AMR?
Various tasks in manufacturing, healthcare, and commercial facilities are performed more quickly and efficiently with automation. Businesses should consider deploying AMRs to automate:
- Repetitive tasks
Processes that involve completing the same task using the same method. Compared to manual methods, AMRs will complete the task more quickly, accurately and safely.
An example is material handling and transportation, transferring and delivering objects from point A to point B through the same navigation path. Our SESTO Magnus, a bi-directional, compact AMR specially built for self-navigation in space-scarce facilities, can carry payloads up to 300kg while avoiding obstacles in its path.
- Processes that pose a risk to employees
Employees of manufacturing and healthcare facilities often carry out tasks that pose health risks or lead to accidents. Such jobs include disinfection processes and transportation of heavy materials. Travelling with heavy loads over long distances may also lead to fatigue and workplace injuries.
AMRs can help businesses automate these chores and ensure a safer workplace for employees. For example, our SESTO HealthGUARD, a dual-function disinfectant AMR which was deployed at a bus depot’s office canteen in Singapore, helps improve the safety of employees and meets the demand for higher frequency disinfection during the pandemic.
- Processes that require high accuracy
Tasks that require traceability and accuracy can also be automated in order to ensure certainty of outcomes. A fleet of AMRs that are integrated to backend ERP systems and tools and machines provide end-to-end automation and reduces the loss of productivity from human error.
For instance, a fleet of SESTO AMRs, equipped with a 7-axis robot arm deployed at a semiconductor plant in Singapore, automates the handling and transfer of Front Opening Unified Pods (FOUPs). FOUPs are plastic enclosures designed to hold delicate silicon wafers. Previously, this application was carried out manually. The AMR’s backend software allowed the factory operators to gain real-time monitoring of the FOUPs without travelling to the AMR’s location. This has improved the efficiency, safety and traceability of FOUP handling in the facility.
Why deploy an AMR?
By deploying an AMR, businesses derive multiple benefits:
- Free employees of mundane, repetitive tasks
After deploying the AMRs, employees can work on more critical or value-added tasks that robots cannot carry out.
- Creates a safer work environment
By letting AMRs take over risk-prone jobs, businesses can prevent workplace accidents and boost employee confidence and morale by providing a secure work environment.
- Allow humans and robots to work together
Autonomous Mobile Robots are easy to integrate and implement to work safely alongside humans. AMRs from SESTO have sensors and safety-rated lasers to detect obstacles and enable human operators to work in collaboration with them.
SESTO AMRs have clocked more than 1 million hours in the field without any human accidents and are certified to comply with international safety standards.
- Automate with minimum changes to systems and infrastructure
AMRs can be easily deployed without making significant changes or upgrades to existing infrastructure. This means businesses can automate their facilities without incurring high costs; not all AMR deployments need fencing or dedicated paths.
- Increase productivity and efficiency
By completing assigned missions more accurately and at a faster pace, AMRs are more efficient than manual processes, increasing overall business productivity and ensuring better output.
US chipmaker Micron Technology, which makes most of its 3D NAND flash memory output in Singapore, uses intelligent factory technologies such as SESTO PRIME to reduce manual work on the shop floor, enhancing productivity. By employing intelligent manufacturing techniques, it improved its staff productivity by 10 per cent.
Deploying an AMR
With proper planning and evaluation, you can quickly deploy an AMR in your facility with the following steps:
1. Have a budget in place
Autonomous robots are a long-term investment.
Eligible SMEs in Singapore deploying SESTO Magnus in their facilities can apply for Enterprise Singapore (ESG) grants. This includes up to 80% off through the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) or S$30,000 subsidy through the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG).
2. Identify potential suppliers
Once the budget is in place, you need to identify your potential suppliers or AMR solution providers. You need to identify the critical requirements and outline the processes that need to be automated. This will help shortlist suppliers that offer AMRs, consultations and maintenance services that meet your requirements.
3. Review your suppliers and perform due diligence
You will then need to review your shortlisted suppliers and make an informed decision, keeping in mind their brand reputation, past and existing customers, online reviews and media articles.
4. Consultations with AMR providers and order placement
Your chosen supplier will then help you select the AMR application that best fits your requirements, whether those include heavy or fragile material handling, improving operational uptime, enhancing workplace safety, or navigating narrow aisles.
Your AMR provider will also assist you in other key areas, such as training your operation team and the setup of pick-up, docking, drop-off and charging stations in your facility. The AMR supplier or system integrator will also set up the missions for the AMRs in accordance with the workflow and processes in your factory.
SESTO Robotics collaborates with Singapore Polytechnic‘s (SP) Advanced Manufacturing Centre (AMC) to organise workshops for Singapore SMEs to educate companies on the implementation of robotics and automation with AMRs.
1.Test the AMRs
Most reputable AMR vendors will conduct site acceptance testing on the AMRs after installation to ensure the performance, including the hardware, software, programs, functions, and features of the AMR meets the mutually agreed requirements of the end-user.
2. Continuous maintenance
Ongoing services to maintain the automation system’s long-term performance, including software updates, hardware repairs and upgrades are critical.
While AMRs boost businesses with various benefits, they prove most valuable when businesses utilize the AMR solutions to address the appropriate problem statements with the help of the right AMR vendor.
Reach out to SESTO Robotics today to find out how we can help you automate your facility today!