Five Steps to a Successful Automated Mobile Robot Project
By: Brian Betts, Contributor
Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are one of the fastest growing segments in automation today, allowing companies to quickly, easily and cost-effectively manage internal logistics while freeing up employees to perform higher-value tasks. This is especially relevant as ongoing labor shortages across myriad industries and disrupted supply chains make these dull, dirty and dangerous tasks difficult to fill. In fact, according to recent analyst reports, revenue from AMR sales reached nearly $3 billion in 2021, and those numbers are expected to rise substantially in the years ahead.
Early adopters of AMRs already know the value they offer and are now ready to double down and expand to further future-proof their operations. No matter how experienced the user may be after testing out single robots within their facilities, deploying multiple systems across multiple facilities and seamlessly integrating them into current operations can quickly become a more complicated task.
The task can be even more daunting for those just starting out with AMRs. Whether they’ve hesitated due to financial concerns or simply not knowing how to start, many now see that taking the plunge will help them compete.
No matter where YOU are in the AMR journey, here is a five-step guide to successfully managing a deployment project:
You may have an idea of which applications you want to automate but sitting down with your vendor or a certified system integrator (or both) to discuss and confirm what can be done is a critical first step in the process. Once initial applications for the AMR are discussed and outlined, they will likely be sent to the vendor’s application development team for review. During this stage, the development team can be expected to make recommendations on best practices to optimize the outcome of the project which may include cutting out aspects of the project that won’t work or don’t support the intended goals of the specific project. This ensures that the scope of any project remains on target and reduces wasted resources. The results of this process are then consolidated into a design report that can go on for review between the CSI partner and the customer.
A design review form should include the pace of the deployment process and the layout of the facility, including routes the robots can travel on the floor, with tracks where they may interact with other robots or other human workers. Keeping track of the customer’s inventory within the facility, such as other pre-existing robots, conveyors, forklifts, Wi-Fi, ERP, warehouse management software (WMS) and manufacturing execution systems (MES), is also important. The vendor will then evaluate that information against the specs of the robots they offer and any top modules appropriate for the application to find the right solution for the customer.
After the review phase is complete and you have agreed with any suggested adjustments, it is time for your team to meet with the CSI partner to discuss the design review. A project manager from the CSI, as well as an application engineer from the vendor, will review the project requirements for deployment and address any other technical questions. They will also establish the schedule for key milestones of the deployment project and make sure you have everything you need to meet the deadlines, including access to support resources.
Implementing complex deployment plans requires good communication. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss the progress of the project to ensure it stays on schedule and provides the opportunity to follow up with any adjustments. This helps maintain alignment across the project team and can be held remotely for convenience, if necessary.
Even when recruiting the advice of outside counsel, it is typical for the CSI partner to be responsible for the actual implementation phase. As a result, you should expect to establish the milestones you expect from your partner and encourage them to keep to the schedule. Many customers choose to take advantage of downtimes or slow seasons to implement new infrastructure, but this creates more of a demand on your partners and should be planned in advance.
On some of the more complex projects that involve multiple robots across multiple facilities, the partner’s deployment team will expand to help meet these needs. These teams provide essential support for you to navigate the adoption of new technology and also helps to align internal stakeholders such as IT or operations.
Service and Support
Once the deployment is complete and you sign off on it, the final phase is to transition to long-term support. Planning for future maintenance will help prevent unnecessary downtime. Given the cost of the initial implementation, it only makes sense to finance a strong customer support system with expertise in AMRs to protect the initial investment. WMHS
Brian Betts is an application project manager for Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) with more than 25 years delivering value to clients and stakeholders. His experience across an array of industries and applications has enabled him to become skilled in all aspects of the art and science of project management. For more details on how to get started on your AMR project, visit www.mobile-industrial-robots.com/insights/get-started-with-amrs.
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