The overall cost of robotics continues to decline. According to McKinsey, the average robot price has dropped by at least 50-percent in the last 30 years and is likely to fall even further in the coming years.
Still, there’s no denying that automation technology requires significant investment in more ways than one. There are, of course, the actual expenditures to purchase the robots, tools, and other equipment, coupled with the fact that it may take a number of years before there’s a return on this capital commitment. Ancillary costs include shipping and installation, spare parts and workforce training requirements, among others. Less tangibly, however, businesses that incorporate automation also invest in change—change in day-to-day operations, change in the production flow, and change in the workplace dynamic.
These are undeniable challenges all businesses must consider before investing in automation. The other part of this risk-reward assessment is the potential return on investment (ROI).
Calculating ROI of Automation
When implemented smartly and as seamlessly as possible, automation can deliver myriad benefits, from increasing production capacity to creating a safer and more rewarding work environment. Robots can help control certain labour-related costs, like accident insurance, and create a higher-quality and more consistent product. They can improve efficiency, as well: In Japan, robots have decreased the time it takes to harvest strawberries by 40-percent.
These are all factors—some more palpable than others—that belong in every ROI evaluation. When determining how to maximize the ROI on automation, it’s crucial to also include end-of-arm tooling, or EOAT, into the equation. These advanced tools, which are attached to the end of robotic arms to make robots smarter, more versatile, and less restrictive, can greatly impact the ROI of automation.
Specifically, collaborative robots (cobots) have the ability to successfully handle a vastly wider range of applications due to the EOAT. When robots are enabled to perform more tasks more quickly, they help businesses achieve a faster realization of their upfront investment.
How EOAT Improves ROI
State-of-the-art EOAT is flexible and precise. Depending on the exact tool, they can improve high-volume packaging and palletizing and handle differently sized and shaped products on the same production line. Generally they allow robots to perform more complex tasks and the same tool can be adapted for various applications, requiring less investment. These EOATs are also easy to program, saving time and the cost of hiring a specialized robotics expert.
For instance, OnRobot’s Quick Changer facilitates quick redeployment of the tools, just within 3 seconds, without screwing, eliminating long delays when changing tools between different tasks. Lightweight and completely collaborative, the Quick Changer is capable of handling a 10-kilogram payload, and its rounded edges make it safe for human interaction. The Dual Quick Changer enables businesses to use two EOAT tools simultaneously, speeding up cycle time and improving productivity by up to 50 percent.
The Hex 6-Axis Force/Torque Sensor features path recording, force control and other advanced features that help eliminate production and packaging waste and damage. For instance, when paired with other end effectors, such as the RG6 Gripper, this cutting-edge sensor can identify misplaced products on a conveyor belt, then communicate the new location to the gripper to avoid project disruption.
OnRobot’s RG2-FT Gripper, the world’s first intelligent gripper, is able to see and feel objects using torque sensing or built-in force much like a human hand. The touch-sensitive two-fingered hand, can quickly and efficiently pick and package small, delicate products without squashing or breaking them, automating processes that were deemed impossible before.
The Gecko Gripper, which is inspired by the gecko’s unique climbing ability, similarly helps reduce damage to hard-to-grip porous objects, like printed circuit boards (PCB), by exacting potent van der Waals forces without the need of compressed air or other external technology. This lowers maintenance costs as no compressors are needed, increasing ROI.
These are just a few examples of how EOAT can transform ordinary robots into more capable and flexible machines that, in turn, offer a swifter ROI.
A Worthy Investment
It is clear that EOAT is a powerful application that play a crucial role in modern automation—and automation’s ROI. These tools even help reduce some of the initial investment. For example, since EOAT is designed to safely operate alongside human operators (pending risk assessment), most businesses need not include safety fencing and other such measures into cost projections.