Companies with a detailed understanding of their assembly process are almost always the ones that are most successful with automation.

As a robot vendor, we get requests every day to help manufacturers solve problems and come up with innovations associated with their processes. Manufacturers come to robot vendors looking for improved quality, faster throughput, cheaper part costs, new process solutions and much more.

They come not to spend money, but to make money by investing in technology for making more high-quality parts at fast run rates. They need a strong return on investment (ROI), along with good business reasons to justify automating their factories. That’s easy for everyone to understand. However, hitting an ROI doesn’t solve the manufacturing task at hand. What do manufacturers really need to solve their problems? In other words, do you really know what you want, and do you know all the technical pieces required to get there?

To truly know what you want requires a detailed knowledge of what you have. Companies that understand how they make parts or product at a detailed level are almost always the ones that are the most successful with automation in their factories, especially when it comes to using robots. The key here is knowing what you need at a detailed level-and the more details the better.

We have seen projects where specs and tolerances were laid out up-front in tremendous detail. The systems were built exactly as planned, and yet the final assembly process still generated bad products a few times per day. No one could understand why these few bad products were created. All the automation components were highly repeatable. They were checked over and over again and proven to work. The only thing that wasn’t proven and repeatable was the most important component of the process, the part itself.

The point here is that factors such as precision requirements, payloads, workcell layouts and restrictions, part repeatabilities, tooling requirements, and much more are all very important factors that, when understood up-front, can mean the difference between success and failure. The more that is clearly understood up-front, the higher your chances are to meet your technical requirements and hit your ROI.

What’s been your experience with implementing robotics? What details did you overlook? How did that affect your process, and how did you solve the problem? Share your experiences with us.

Rick Brookshire is senior manager of product development and engineering at EPSON Robots.

Editor’s note: “EPSON on Robotics” is one of a new series of guest spots by industry experts that will appear regularly on ASSEMBLY’s blog page. Check back frequently to read more commentaries from Rick, as well as contributions on automated assembly systems, leak testing, machine vision and ergonomics.