As the vice president for the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) and the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) Mexico, I manage day-to-day activities for the association, which has 470 member companies who are driving the robotics and automation industry forward. There has been a lot of growth of automation technologies in the manufacturing industry, and plastics manufacturers have been quick to catch on. 2017 was another record year for the robotics industry, where the plastics and rubber industry category grew by 16 percent in 2017.
Even as the plastics industry moves toward automation, many manufacturers aren’t sure how to get started. The introduction of collaborative robots (cobots) to the market has been very well received, easing the transition to automation as they provide a compact, easy-to-use solution that can work side-by-side with human counterparts.
The best way for companies to determine how the implementation of cobots might affect their manufacturing processes is to find a pain point in the facility or a bottleneck in production. Cobots are the perfect entry point for plastics manufacturers looking for automation solutions, given their adaptability and ease of implementation. By bringing in a cobot supplier, integrator or distributor, companies can conduct a thorough walkthrough of their production processes and identify the areas that would most benefit from automation. As with any robot integration, a safety risk assessment must be done when implementing a collaborative application, as it is necessary to ensure employees working around the robot are safe at all times.
Cobots are easy to deploy and adaptable enough to be moved to different locations and perform a variety of tasks as needed, which is ideal for tasks such as tending plastics molding machines or packaging plastic products. They also allow the implementation of automation alongside human workers, and have a much smaller footprint than larger industrial automation systems.
As in many industries lately, plastics manufacturing faces workforce challenges, and many companies have numerous gaps in existing roles that human workers aren’t eager to fill. Cobots have the potential to help staff these dull, dirty or dangerous roles, while also increasing productivity and allowing human workers to focus on more valuable work for the company.
See how Rethink Robotics’ Sawyer helps plastics manufacturers boost efficiency and drive growth in our customer profiles.
About the Author
Bob Doyle is Vice President – Robotic Industries Association (RIA) and A3 Mexico at the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He directs and manages the day-to-day activities of RIA, the leading trade association for the robotics industry in North America with over 470 member companies. Doyle also played a lead role in launching the association’s A3 Mexico operations, growing the organization's reach internationally. Today he manages A3’s activities and growth strategy in Mexico. He has extensive experience in strategic communications planning, media relations, crisis communications and stakeholder relations. Doyle holds a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Michigan Technological University, a M.S. in Engineering Management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a M.A. in Public Relations from Wayne State University. Doyle is also a member of the Advisory Council of South Oakland Shelter, a non-profit homelessness assistance agency based in southeast Michigan.