Implementing automation into your plant can come with a great deal of challenges and concerns. At the end of the day, it's an investment that is made with the end goal of increasing profitability and efficiency. Like any investment, it often comes with risks.
So, how do companies minimize this risk when diving into automation projects? The answer lies in a proof of concept, or R&D phase. These can be thought of as a snapshot of your full project, where equipment is brought in, assembled, and programmed to test out the feasibility of the project at hand. In these studies, the "riskiest" parts of the project are tested repeatedly under near-identical conditions of that in which the solution would be deployed.
A Research & Development phase is a common route that many companies take when evaluating automation projects. With the end goal of diminishing the risk and proving the feasibility before committing to the higher cost of doing the entire project. These studies are an excellent way to test out the implementation of large projects and gain a clearer picture of the end result without the risk of paying for the project up front.
At BlueBay, we offer this as one of our value-added services. We encourage our customers to take part in these before we come to an agreement on the final project. So, how does it usually work?
Typically, we charge a small fee relative to the entire project. The costs of this will differ per project, and are derived from the materials we need to purchase along with the engineering hours that are required. This fee helps us reduce risk on our end by allowing us to ensure that we can accomplish the requested scope of work. More importantly, it also reduces our customer's risk by ensuring that the project will ultimately be successful.
Electronics Assembly Example
In this example, an automotive customer would like to automate part of a PCB assembly process where they will need a robot to insert shields onto a PCB board, and then perform a quality inspection to ensure the shields are seated correctly. Using the equipment that we have in our automation lab, we can then put together a system that we believe will achieve the desired results.
So, looking at the video above you can see that we selected a robot for the task, developed custom end of arm tooling, and selected a high resolution (1 micron) laser sensor for the distance measurements. The system also includes a load cell that is able to precisely measure the downward force the robot excerpts on the shield. After receiving some samples from our customer we can then run the test and work out any kinks in the process, while also testing repeatability. This allows our customer to see how well the process works while also seeing the realistic cycle time that is achievable along with other valuable data.
After proving that the system will accomplish the desired task and confirming our customer's satisfaction, we then can move to take on the project in it's entirety with the knowledge that the efforts will yield the desired solution. For this, they now have the confidence and can rest easy knowing that their investment will yield their desired result.
What happens to the fee that was paid for the engineering study? It is simply absorbed into the cost of the final project. Any parts that can be used in the final product will further reduce the cost. By performing this engineering study, the risk is diminished thereby reducing the overall cost of the project.
In short, proof of concepts are an excellent way to minimize risk that comes along with new projects. Does it eliminate the risk entirely? No, but it does bring the cost of certainty down to an absolute minimum.
Here at BlueBay, we perform these studies regularly because we see it as a very fair and logical way to approach the unknown. Using our extensive laboratory equipment and demo units, we are able to put together an impressively expansive portfolio of solutions and tests while keeping the costs to a minimum.. If you find yourself walking down the path of uncertainty, give our engineers a call. We can help you navigate the process, and present you with a variety of options to consider while propelling your business to the next level.