By Stefan Taal, PA robotics expert
Innovation is more important than ever. Being able to offer the right new products to consumers quickly is the key to growth. Innovative products often require innovative manufacturing solutions, however, and developing both new products and new production processes is normally a long and frustrating journey. To make life easier, a new generation of robotics is now available that significantly speeds up the development process.
The old way: step-by-step
Starting with a product idea, two big questions are “Will consumers like it?” and “How do we make it?” Finding the answers at a low risk means that, before any real investment, Marketing must test and define the market, even though at this stage only product mock-ups and pictures are available. Once finished Engineering can get to work, building a well-sized production line to support expected sales. It is a long step-by-step process with a large investment, even before the business sees any sales.
To speed up this process, one may already develop a pilot line while the product idea is still tested with consumers, but this carries a big risk: a sizeable investment in a pilot line for a poorly specified product that may still be scrapped.
Do it all at once: robots make it happen
Taking a holistic view of product and process, a smaller investment in what is effectively a small, reconfigurable pilot line could directly provide product samples to Marketing, as well as de-risk development of the production line. The latest in robotics provides the missing element.
Up until recently, robots have not been cheap and/or needed specialists to use them, but that has gradually changed. They have now reached a tipping point, both in ROI and usability, where they can add value in nearly all sectors of manufacturing. As a key example, so-called collaborative robot arms are now available that are easy to use and program, and often do not need obtrusive guarding. A new process can be created in just a few days, and in combination with basic manual operations (material loading, filling, etc.) producing the actual product is now a small step. Meanwhile, Engineering gains valuable experience with this mini-factory, which significantly reduces the risks in building a larger (pilot) production line.
- integration with sensors, vision, servos, assembly tools, etc. for infinite process options
- product and market de-risking: hard statistical data (100’s - 1000’s of samples) instead of only anecdotal evidence
- potential to sell in a few stores very early on to measure actual customer retention
- not happy? You can change size, material, and process quickly
Robots can add significant capability to your product and manufacturing process development, empowering Marketing with real product (and 100’s of it), while Engineering can start development from day one. This way you can de-risk investment and speed up time to market.
To discuss how you can quickly get innovative product ideas to market, contact us now.