What Type of Robot Do I Need?

When specifying a robot for an application there are many different things that need to be considered. What space is available? What is the robot going to be lifting? What speeds need to be achieved? What environment is it in? How accurate does the robot need to be when picking and placing the item? These are just a few of the question that need to be answered before you will be able to select the best robot for your application.

The best place to start is to analyse exactly what you want the robot to do. What are you trying to achieve by installing a robot? What space have you got available? What does the throughput need to be to make the project viable?

Below we explain in more detail what the different types of robot are, and what applications they are most suited to.

 

Collaborative robots

Collaborative robots have been designed to allow a human to work alongside them without the need for guarding. They are typically slower than industrial robots and have a lower payload. However, they have the benefits of force monitoring, and the fact that they often don’t need guarding.

Some of the more common uses for collaborative robots include; pick and place, machine tending, gluing, dispensing, welding, polishing, grinding, de-burring, assembly, painting, coating, dipping.

Introducing cobots to your production process does not only have the benefit of reducing the risk of repetitive strain injuries occurring, but can also have the added impact of reducing wastage of consumables in such as glue, fasteners etc.

 

Industrial robots

There are four main subcategories of industrial robot, each of which is explained in more detail below.

Robotic Arm

Probably the most common type of pick and place robot is the robotic arm type. They typically come as 5 axis robots for standard pick and place applications in a horizontal plane, or 6 axis robots for more complex applications where the products needs twisting from the horizontal. Robotic arms are able to work with a high degree of accuracy at high speeds, and are able to take high payloads.

Some of the most common applications for industrial robots include: welding, material handling, machine tending, painting, pick and place, packing, palletising, assembly, cutting, grinding, de-burring, polishing, gluing, adhesive sealing, and spraying materials.

Cartesian Robot

Cartesian robots are also known as linear or gantry robots. They are a very common type of pick and place robot that used to be cheaper, but is now not so commonly installed apart from for injection moulding machine applications. The advantages of a Cartesian robot is that they have high positional accuracy and can handle heavy loads. However, the disadvantage of a Cartesian robot is that movement is limited to only one direction at a time.

Applications that suit Cartesian robots include pick and place operations, loading and unloading, material handling, assembly and sub-assembly, and adhesive applications.

Delta Robot

Delta robots are mounted above the workspace and are typically used for high speed pick and place, or product transfer applications. The advantages of delta robots are their high speed and high operational accuracy.

Scara Robot

Scara robots, also known as fast pick robots, are an excellent option for fast pick and place applications; with cycle times as fast as 150 cycles per minute. Fast pick robots can also be used in packaging and assembly processes as well.

 

Robot Grippers

As robots can handle such a wide variety of products, the gripper on a robot is usually custom made to suit the application. However, there are four main types of gripper; vacuum, pneumatic, hydraulic and servo-electric.

 

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Palletiser

What Is A Palletiser?

A palletiser is an automated machine or system that stacks products onto pallets. Palletisers can be robotic or mechanical and goods will usually be palletised either as a complete layer or as individual products.

  

What Are The Advantages Of Automated Palletising?

Automated palletising brings many different advantages. Some of these are explained in detail below.

Reduces the risk of repetitive strain injury

Manual palletising processes carry a high risk of repetitive strain injury. This is due to the fact that when a pallet is being stacked by hand, there is a large amount of manual handling involved that is very repetitive in nature. An automated palletising system will remove the manual handling element of the palletising process and will completely eliminate the risk of RSI.

Eliminates potential bottlenecks

If product coming off the production line is not able to be manually palletised as quickly as the optimum running speed of the machine, the palletising process becomes the bottleneck in your production process. An automated palletising system will remove this bottleneck as it can be designed to run at the speeds that are suited to the optimum production rate of your line. If your production line is otherwise fully automated, having an automated palletiser at the end of the production line also enables you to run your production unmanned 24/7, thus increasing the amount of product you can produce.

Improves production speed and eliminates downtime

With an automated palletiser, production speeds can also be increased. This is due to the fact that your palletiser can be programmed to pick and place goods onto pallets at the speed that is best suited to your production process. In a manual palletising process, production often stops whilst your staff stop for coffee breaks, chats and lunch. This immediately reduces your production output by the quantity of product that could have been produced during this time. With an automated palletiser at the end of the line, production can continue to run throughout break times, thereby enabling you to improve your production speeds. On average there is a 40% improvement in production speeds when automated palletising is introduced as the palletising of products is not stopping or slowing down when your staff stop for a break or a chat. An OEE calculator is a very helpful tool to use to find out if your process is running at the optimum speed.

 

What Are The Disadvantages Of Automated Palletising?

As automation advances, there are becoming fewer and fewer disadvantages of automated palletising. There are however still a few areas that may be considered as disadvantages, but virtually all of these can be overcome.

Products are irregular in size and shape

For some palletising systems this may still present an issue to automating the palletising process. However, with the various developments in technology, mixed case palletising is now a possibility. Also, with the many developments in gripper technologies, there are now very few products that cannot be automatically picked and placed onto a pallet. Quick and easy programming software that can be set by your factory staff also overcomes this issue as it is very quick and easy to change the stack configuration without having to call in a specialist programmer.

Capital expenditure

As with any machinery or system, there is always the need for an initial capital outlay. However, there are some companies that will now offer a try before you buy, or buyback scheme. The try before you buy service gives you the opportunity to see how your product would work on an automated palletising system before you commit to the capital expenditure. The buyback scheme has been designed to give you peace of mind, as if after having the palletising system installed you decide that it doesn’t work for you, the company you bought it from will buy it back from you less a hire fee. This means that if for some reason you find that automated palletising doesn’t work for you, you don’t lose the capital you have spent on it and don’t end up with a redundant system clogging up your factory floor space. Finance schemes are also available and these typically cost less per month than the savings you are making on a monthly basis by having automated your process.

Downtime during installation

Downtime during installation can cost a lot to your company, particularly if you’re running a process where you are producing high volumes of product per hour. If you are currently manually palletising the product, downtime during install may not be as much of a problem for you as those that are replacing an existing automated palletising system. The Granta GA15 palletising system is the answer to this, as the system is modular and can be install in a day which vastly reduces the downtime required.

  

What Do I Need To Consider When Installing A Palletiser?

What will the payback be?

When considering installing a palletiser it is always useful to calculate the payback that this will give you. We have developed an automation payback calculator that is available for download as part of our Robotics and Automation Resources Pack https://www.granta-automation.co.uk/freepack .

Whilst this automation payback calculator enables you to calculate the value of the tangible benefits of installing a palletiser, it can often be useful to also calculate the value of the intangible benefits. An intangible benefits calculator is also included in our Robotics and Automation Resource Pack and can be downloaded here https://www.granta-automation.co.uk/freepack.

What if my production process changes and I no longer need a palletiser?

In some industries, certain products have a very short life cycle, and with the short life cycle of the product, investing in a palletising system can seem very costly and inefficient. However, if you choose your palletising system carefully, it will be possible to easily re-deploy the palletising system to another line once the life cycle of your product is ended. Key things to look out for are programming software that doesn’t require a specialist to program the palletiser, and modular systems that don’t leave your factory floor in a mess when you uninstall and reinstall the system.

 

If you would like any further help on palletisers, please contact us on 01223 499488 or helpline@granta-automation.co.uk.

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Quick Wins To Reduce Your Overheads And Improve Profits

In January we all tend to review the previous year to see how we can improve this year, so these Quick Wins on how to reduce your production overheads should come in useful!

The first category outlines ways to directly reduce your overheads, whilst the second and third categories are items that are often not thought of as directly relating to reducing overheads but do indeed have a significant impact.

 

Reduce Overheads

There are several simple steps you can take to reduce your overheads, many of which do not need any capital outlay to introduce.

  1. Reduce the cost of materials – Review your buying prices and check that the prices you are paying are competitive. Ask your supplier for an early payment discount. Review your product, is there a cheaper material that could be used without compromising on quality, or could you use less of the same material?
  2. Review your production process – Production processes often evolve over time, and can sometimes mean that you end up with processes being applied during the manufacturing process that may no longer be necessary. Are your products being over engineered, are there any non-value adding processes being used? Review your process to see if there are any steps in the production process that could be eliminated or combined to reduce costs.
  3. Reduce waste – waste can mean many different things. It can involve time, raw material, downtime and faulty finished products. Does your production process stop when your staff stop for tea breaks? Is there raw material being wasted? Do you have a lot of finished product that has to be rejected due to quality issues? These are all issues that with planning, can be reduced or even eliminated and will result in less waste and more net profit.
  4. Introduce lean manufacturing – Lean manufacturing is a proven method for reducing overheads, with the main focus being on reducing waste in the production process. More information on The Toyota Way of lean manufacturing is available here.
  5. Track expenses and set departmental budgets – tracking expenses and setting departmental budgets with a specific persons responsible for monitoring each departments budget enables you to track and monitor expenses. Once you know what your expenses are, it is then possible to evaluate and reduce your expenses.
  6. Identify inefficiencies in your process – do you know exactly how effective your machinery or production process is? Is it being used to its full potential? Use an OEE calculator (Overall Equipment Effectiveness Calculator) to identify how effective your machine or production process is. Find out where your inefficiencies and spare capacity are and then exploit them.
  7. Automate to reduce labour costs – Introducing automation can be a very sustainable way to reduce labour overheads. Using an accurate automation payback calculator you will be able to quickly see what the return on investment is for automating any part of your production process.
  8. Brainstorm with employees – Hold a brainstorming sessions with your employees on how to reduce overheads. Often we find that our employees who work on the ‘coal face’ see things in a different light to managers. When given the right forum, they will often come up with innovative ideas on how to reduce overheads.

 

Increase Productivity

Increasing the productivity of any machine or indeed your whole production process will have a positive impact on your net profit. This short video explains why productivity is so important.

Below are some proven methods that will enable you to increase your productivity.

  1. Train your staff – Training your staff enables them to complete their job more effectively and efficiently. Staff that don’t have the needed training to complete their role effectively often end up having to waste time asking other members of staff for help or guidance on how to complete tasks. This has a cost implication to your profit as it results in two people having to waste time on a conversation about how to do something, rather than working on a task that is adding value to the product that you are producing. Training also motivates staff and motivated staff are known to achieve more than unmotivated staff.
  2. Identify how productive your processes are – Understanding how productive your current processes are is the first step to improving productivity. There are many methods available for doing this, but the preferred method is to calculate the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) of a specific machine, or your production process. An OEE calculator is available for you to download here. Once you have calculated this, you will then have the information you need to enable you to identify how you can improve efficiency.
  3. Eliminate bottlenecks – Identifying and eliminating bottlenecks in your production process is key to improving productivity. With an efficient flow of good quality products being produced, you will be able to sell more product with less quality issues which will result in increased profit. More information on identifying and exploiting bottlenecks is available here.
  4. Improve production speed – having identified how productive your processes are and where you bottlenecks are, you can then use this information to improve your production speed. With improved production speed, you will be able to produce more parts per hour, which in turn means you have more product to sell and make a profit on.
  5. Eliminate downtime – downtime in a production process translates directly to a loss of profits. Every minute that your production process isn’t working, you are losing the opportunity to make more product to sell. There are several different methods that can be used to eliminate downtime such as; staggered staff breaks, instant fault reporting systems, and regular machinery maintenance to minimise the risk of breakdowns. Downtime can also be eliminated by introducing automated systems to remove the need for human input; eg. end of line palletising systems, vision inspection systems for quality control, machine tending robots, etc.
  6. Introduce extra shifts with ‘Lights Out Automation’ – Introducing automation that can run without operator input throughout the night, or at least for an hour or two after everyone goes home at the end of the day, is also a sure way to increase your productivity. You may only need a basic end of line system such as a palletising systems to enable you to achieve this, or you many need a more advanced, custom built solution.

 

Reduce Production Costs Per Hour

Whilst this many not be an entirely obvious method for reducing your overheads, reducing your production costs per hour does have a direct impact on overheads. The money you save in the production of the products that you sell converts directly to an increased profit.

Reducing production costs can be done in a variety of different ways, some of which have been outlined below:

  1. Reduce the walking – Reducing the walking time for staff is a basic lean principal as it reduces wasted motion. However there is also a further significant impact in reducing the walking in that it removes unnecessary socialising between production staff. When staff have to walk off from the production area to get something, pass a few other staff members on the way and have a quick chat, before you know it 5 wasted minutes have passed. If there is one of these chats every 50 minutes that is reducing your productivity by 10%! Reducing the walking reduces the chances of these chats happening and in turn reduces your production costs.
  2. Daily improvements and suggestions – your staff on the factory floor know your production process the best. Asking your staff on a daily basis to make an improvement or suggest an improvement has a significant impact. Your staff then start to develop an ownership mentality and are continually looking for ways to improve. Whilst a lot of these improvements may be small, when improvements are made daily by every member of staff, the net result is significant. Improvements in time and efficiency will have a direct result in reducing production costs.
  3. Create production targets and display them live in your factory – Include your staff in creating a production target that they will be able to directly influence. Displaying this target live in the factory, along with their current score, will have an incredible motivating effect on your staff. As with any game, if you’re playing to win, you need to know your current position to enable you to win. If you then tie these targets in with a reward system, you will find that your staff will become self-motivated to hit production targets.
  4. Pace staff with automation – It is a known fact that as staff reach the end of their shift, their concentration begins to lapse, and their pace is likely to slow down. This can have an impact on production speeds and quality control, which in turn limits the amount of products produced and can result in increased quality control issues. This issue can be overcome by pacing staff with automation; which could be something as simple as a slow moving conveyor that moves products past staff at a set pace. The other option is to automate particular parts of the process such as product labelling, vision inspection or product counting.
  5. Introduce automated processes – Automation allows you to reduce the labour costs of your production process without compromising on the standard of items being produced. One machine can perform the task of a number of workers, while never falling sick, taking time off or requiring lunch breaks; making production even more cost effective. Automation of quality control processes also reduces production costs as it eliminates the risk of human error in detecting faulty parts and products.  It also ensures that faulty parts and products are rejected before reaching despatch.

 

As you can see, reducing overheads does not need to be a costly exercise. Often some of the simplest activities can have a significant impact.

Feel free to contact us on 01223 499488 or helpline@granta-automation.co.uk if you require any further information or would like to discuss any of these concepts further.

 

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What Are The Benefits Of Automated Packaging?

Automated packaging of products can bring many benefits to your company. Some of these benefits are obvious, tangible benefits, and others are more intangible, but nevertheless equally beneficial to your company and your bottom line profit.

Automated packaging of products can mean many different things to different people and your interpretation depends entirely on the market you are in. For some it may mean the packaging of food into containers, or liquids into bottles; whereas for others, it may mean the binding together and wrapping of large sheets of material. With this diversity of product, automated packaging systems are also very diverse, and often have to be bespoke made to meet a company’s requirements.

Whilst these is often the need to package each individual product, there is also often the need to further box and palletise these products to make them ready to ship. When this process is automated, it can also be referred to as automated packaging.

 

Let’s start by looking into some of the tangible benefits of automated packaging;

Reduces The Risk Of Repetitive Strain Injury
Repetitive strain injury risks are lowered when products are packed automatically rather than manually. This is due to the fact that automation removes the need for human input to complete repetitive manual tasks. Not sure how high the risk of RSI is in your process? Download our repetitive strain injury risk assessment form and find out now.

Eliminate Potential Bottlenecks
Manual packaging processes can often lead to bottlenecks within a production process when human errors occur. Automated packaging processes can help to eliminate this bottleneck as a bespoke machine will be designed to keep up with the flow off the production line. With automated packaging there is also less scope for packaging errors, which in turn leads to less downtime and bottlenecks.

Improved Production Speed
Automating your packaging process can lead to improved production speeds. Often when there is a manual packaging process, the machine producing the product is not able to run at full capacity as the manual packaging process is not able to keep up with this level of output. By automating the packaging of the products you are then able to remove this constraint and improve your production speed.

Eliminate Downtime
As with any process involving manual labour, staff are entitled to breaks. Often in factories this means that production stops during these breaks resulting in downtime and loss of production. With an automated packaging solution, these breaks no longer happen, and the machines can be run 24/7 if required.

To find out more about the tangible benefits of automated packaging, download our automation payback calculator here.

 

Intangible benefits are harder to define, but below are some of the more common intangible benefits:

Increased Staff Morale
Factory staff packaging products are often working relatively long hours on repetitive tasks that quickly become mind numbing and boring. As the boredom sets in, the pace unintentionally slows and very quickly the production output can settle to a pace that is a lot less efficient and effective than it could be. Also, when staff are bored and only half concentrating on the job at hand, mistakes start to happen, which can then result in product defects or health and safety issues etc. If repetitive jobs, such are packaging of products, are automated then staff can be re-deployed to other areas of the business that are less mundane; which in turn creates more engagement and job satisfaction.

Increased Sales Due To Reduced Product Cost
Whilst there is the initial need for capital outlay when introducing an automated packaging system to your process this needs to be considered carefully. It is important to calculate what your current costs are in terms of production speeds, staffing costs, product defects, RSI claims, etc. Without a complete picture of your current cost, and a knowledge of the added value of increased production speeds that an automated packaging system would bring, it is impossible to get a complete picture of how quickly your capital investment will pay for itself. Introducing an automated packaging system usually results in reduced product cost and the capacity to manufacture more products, thus creating more product to sell and resulting in increased profit on your bottom line.

Better Customer Service
With an automated packaging process the risk of product defects and recalls is significantly decreased. This along with the increased production capacity enables you to give your customers a better service. As we all know, better customer services results in more loyal customers and repeat business bringing greater profits to your company.

To find out more about the intangible benefits of automated packaging, download our intangible benefits calculator here.

 

Although we have only covered a few of the benefits of automated packaging, as you can see, there are many visible benefits as well as hidden benefits of automating this process. If you would like any help in calculating the value of these tangible or intangible benefits, feel free to contact us on 01223 499488 and we will be very happy to help.

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How To Reduce End Of Year Chaos In The Factory

As we all know, the end of year rush always brings its challenges with it! Too many goods to get out the door, staff having to work overtime to fulfil customer requirements. Machine break downs just when you really could do without them, and then to crown it all, some of your workers are having to take sick leave due to repetitive strain injuries.

Then the end of year arrives, we all take our well-earned breaks and by January, the chaos of December has been forgotten. Life settles back into a sensible pace and production carries on as usual but, before we know it, the end of the year is upon us again and we’re back in the whirlwind of chaos. It’s a difficult cycle to break…

 

So How Do You Break Free From This End Of Year Whirlwind?

There are many contributing factors here that need to be considered, some are internal influences and some external. In order to bring calm to the chaos, it is important to be able to identify what exactly is causing the chaos. Take a step back, start to look at where the main bottleneck is in the workflow. If you are not familiar with identifying bottlenecks in the workflow you may find this article useful https://www.granta-automation.co.uk/news/how-do-i-identify-a-bottleneck-in-my-production-process/ . Once you have identified the bottleneck it is important that you do everything you can to exploit the bottleneck, and to ensure that the bottleneck machine or process is working to maximum efficiency. You will likely find that as you fix one bottleneck, another bottleneck arises. However, this is to be expected, and identifying bottlenecks in your process should be a continuous process as it allows for continuous improvement.

 

What If My Bottleneck Is People?

If you’re bottleneck relates to people, it is important to analyse why. Is the production stopping whilst they have breaks? Is the production rate slowing as their shift draws to an end? Is RSI causing an issue?

There are many questions that can be asked, and it is also very important to be get answers to these questions, as with an accurate understanding of why people are causing a bottleneck, you are half way to finding a solution.

Sometimes your solution can be as simple as introducing methods to boost your staff morale and keep the pace up, whereas other times it may be more beneficial to introduce automated systems to increase productivity and to re-deploy your staff to more profitable roles throughout your company.

 

How Do I know How Productive My Processes Are?

Knowing how productive your machinery or processes are plays a very important part in being able to increase your throughput. If you measure and keep a record of your efficiencies, you will quickly be able to see how changes you have made as a result of exploiting bottlenecks have affected your overall productivity. To help you with this, we’re created a couple of calculators https://www.granta-automation.co.uk/news/2-ways-to-measure-the-productivity-effectiveness-or-efficiency-of-your-machinery-or-factory/

 

Now you can look forward to a calm and prosperous year end next year!

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How To Palletise

How do I palletise? How do I stack products on pallets? What does palletise mean? All these questions are answered in this article which covers a range of the common types of palletising – both automated and manual.

 

What Does Palletising Mean?

Palletising is simply the act of stacking products onto pallets. This is typically to make the product easy to transport.

 

How Do I Palletise Products?

There are really 3 main ways of palletising:

  1. Manual palletising
  2. Semi Automated palletising
  3. Automated palletising

 

Manual Palletising

This is where people simply stack products onto pallets by hand. This process is very common especially where there are random or irregular shaped products that need stacking.

 

Semi Automated Palletising

This is where there is a certain level of automation to assist someone manually stacking pallets. For example;

  • a hand operated vacuum lifter that take most of the weight of the products to reduce the strain on the hands.
  • Lifters that lift the product up to the relevant height for stacking the next layer on the pallet, or onto a persons shoulder, to make stacking by hand easier and reduce the manual strain and lifting.

 

Automated Palletising

This is where the process of palletising is carried out with entirely automated machinery. This is often a robotic palletising system or an overhead gantry palletising system. Even within automated systems there are certain levels of automation but the most advanced systems can be quickly re-programmed by a non-skilled operator.

If you want any further information on palletising, view our robotic palletising page here.

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What Does End Of Line Automation Mean?

 

End Of Line Automation Definition

‘End of line automation’ is the automated machinery at the end of a production/manufacturing line that packages the newly manufactured product ready for market.

There are many different types of automation covered by the term end of line automation, it is a very large market. Typically end of line automation covers everything to do with packing product so that it is ready for distribution, some examples are:

  • Box and carton assembly machines
  • Box or bag filling machines
  • Box and bag sealing machines
  • Labelling and inkjet printing
  • Palletising system
  • Pallet wrapping

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To find out more and see some examples of end of line automation follow these links;

 

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What Does Palletiser Mean?

What is a Palletiser?

Palletiser is a term used in the machinery automation industry to describe an automated machine or system that stacks product onto pallets.

There are many different types of palletising systems available on the market from basic box and carton palletisers, through to bag palletisers, barrel palletisers and mixed case palletising. They all have some sort of robotic system that is programmed to pick the incoming product off a production line and place it onto pallets.

Some systems form the product into layers than place whole layers on to pallets, other pick products individually and place them onto pallets. There are many different considerations for specifying a palletiser such as; production speed, range of product types and sizes, weight of products, type of packaging, what type of gripper is needed, etc.

The entry level robotic palletisers are often a basic two station system where the robot has two pallet stacking positions so it can stack these two pallets, and then a member of staff can remove the stacked pallets with a forklift through a safety light curtain or by opening a safety gate. The advanced systems have multiple lanes and automatic pallet feeding. Automatic pallet feeding means that the production can keep running continuously as the pallets will move through the system on conveyors and the stacked pallets will be automatically moved to outside the safety area ready for forklift operators to remove the pallets.

Programming of palletisers is a very important part of the system, often robotic palletisers required skilled robot programming engineers to set them up. The most advanced systems have completely automatic programming where you simply build a 3D model of your pallet using simple user-friendly software and then the system programmes itself (e.g. GA15 series robotic palletiser). The advantage of this advanced software is that you keep control of your system in house and it reduces the cost of expensive robot programmers every time you need to change your palletising layout due to a new product.

Watch this video to see a palletiser with advanced programming software.

 

Granta usually recommend the GA15 series palletising system which is a modular robotic palletising system. Being modular it can be easily adapted for almost any palletising application and it is easy to add extras such as; slip sheets, pallet feeding, stretch wrapping, barcode reading, label application and other bespoke modules. The GA15 series palletiser also has advanced easy programming software which enables you to design your stack pattern in 3D then it automatically programs the robot.

If you unsure if a palletiser is right for you at the moment, Granta also offer a buy back scheme where we buy the palletiser system back off you if within the first 6 months you decide you don’t want it. Granta can also do free trials for you with your product, simply ship a pallet to us and we will run a demonstration for you.

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How To Define The Value Of Intangible Benefits

 

Calculating ROI is needed to validate any project but often this is not as easy as it appears on the surface.

Often companies start and stop by thinking in terms of ‘how much paid staff time will this project save me?’ E.g. this project may save me 1 salary at £30,000 per year, we want 5 years payback so max project value that is justifiable is £150,000.

 

Some companies dig a lot further into other tangible payback areas such as:

  • What increase in production will this give me due to machinery not stopping during lunch and break times.
  • What increase in production will this give me due to extra shifts/production time, etc.
  • What increase in production will this give me due to faster production speeds.
  • How much downtime will this save me due to less breakdowns, etc.
  • How much will this save me in temporary staff costs while full time staff are on holiday or ill.
  • What % defects will this project save me, and what is the resulting saving in terms of reduced costs of defects, increased production, handling of recalls etc.
  • etc

For help with calculating the tangible benefits of your project try using our payback calculator www.granta-automation.co.uk/automation-project-payback-calculator 

 

Rarely do companies put a value to the intangible benefits of projects such as:

  • Improved Health and Safety
  • Admin of people HR costs savings
  • The increased sales due to the ‘wow factor’ for your customers; improving their perception of your company and encouraging them to trust you and want to use you.
  • The improved buying prices due to the ‘wow factor’ for your suppliers; improving their perception of your company and helping them to want to do business with you.
  • Increased moral of staff due to improved environment and faster production speeds etc.
  • Increased motivation of staff due to results being displayed on a scoreboard https://www.granta-automation.co.uk/news/kpis-dashboards-and-scoreboards-are-key-to-a-better-company-culture/
  • Less fork truck movements/requirements saving on costs of purchasing and maintaining fork trucks
  • Counting/measuring production output is more accurate and less time consuming.
  • The extra marketing and sales opportunity to talk about your investment in automation
  • Improved quality/reduction in defects for the end client/customer.
  • Reduced floor space requirements as a result of the automation project
  • Time savings on product inspection
  • Increased sales due to reduced product costs
  • Better customer service resulting from the above

 

Then there are the intangible risks of not carrying out the project to consider as well, e.g if I don’t go ahead with the project:

  • Might my competition automated ahead of me instead, and what impact could this have on our market?
  • Can I meet required production quantities and if not what impact will this have?
  • Will I need to pay for extra shifts/staff etc. anyhow to meet market demand?
  • Can I keep up with my markets production quality standards and if not what impact will this have?
  • What will happen to staff morale? Are staff struggling/getting bored with their job? Is staff turnover going to be an issue?
  • Is there any health and safety risk with the current process? Have their been any H&S issues like RSI or staff sickness as a result of the job role.

 

So how do I calculate the value of these intangible benefits?

Essentially the aim is to somehow make the intangible tangible, and there are several methods that can be used;

 

1. Process of elimination

This is really a cheat method and not defined or accurate but is simply a process of starting with the balance between required payback and tangible benefits and evaluating if you feel the intangible benefits easily cover the difference? Obviously in many situations the tangible benefits are enough to justify the project without the intangible benefits anyhow or the difference is so small that the intangibles are clearly worth more than the difference.

Worked example:

£200,000 project cost

4 year payback period

Therefore at least £200,000/4 = £50,000 per year of benefits needed to justify the project.

Tangible benefits:

  • Labour saving = £30,000 per year
  • Extra production = £15,000 per year

By eliminating the tangible benefits the balance needed to justify the project is £5,000 per year of intangible benefits to justify the project

Intangible benefits:

  • Less H&S issues and risks
  • Improved product quality to better a standard that is better than the competition (currently it is worse than the competition) potentially resulting in increased sales
  • The extra marketing and sales opportunity automating the process will bring us
  • Improved staff morale; staff morale is currently very low
  • The competition may automate at some point

It is clear to management that these intangible benefits are worth more than £5,000 so they go ahead with the project.

 

2. Weighted estimation

This is the most common method and is very similar to the risk assessment processes used for assessing health and safety risks. Each of the intangible items is listed. An estimated saving/cost in £ is assigned to each of the list items as to what they are estimated to be if they did happen. A percentage likelihood of the intangible happening is assigned to each of the list items. Finally the estimated saving/cost is multiplied by the % likelihood to give a monetary value to the intangible items.

Worked example:

Intangible benefits if we were to automate 

Intangible £ if it did happen Likelihood of it happening Weighted estimated intangible benefits value
Less staff sickness due to improved H&S £1,000 50% £500
Increased sales due to improved product quality £10,000 70% £7,000
Increased sales due to the extra marketing and sales opportunity automation will bring £3,000 30% £900
Improved staff output due to improved staff morale £1,000 50% £500

 

Intangible risks if we didn’t automate

Intangible £ if it did happen Likelihood of it happening Weighted estimated intangible risks value
H&S claims due to RSI £5,000 30% £1,500
Poor staff morale causing staff turnover and/or poor performance £3,000 80% £2,400
The competition may automate at some point improving quality and price meaning we are no longer competitive £20,000 25% £5,000

 

3. Comparative analysis

This is where you compare intangibles with previous scenarios that have put a value to an intangible and then compare them to give them a defined value. This method is commonly used in valuing intangible business assets such as brand names and patents. If other companies have previously sold similar brand names or patents, then the price of these can be used to establish a price for your own brand name or patents. An example of this in relation to automation project intangible benefits could be to compare to another automation project you have completed in your factory, or to compare with case studies from other companies that have automated.

Examples:

Less staff sickness due to improved health and safety – could be compared with how much staff sickness you have in this non automated process vs another automated process in your factory.

Increased sales due to improved product quality – could be compared with how much sales improved for another similar product when you improved it.  Or it could be compared with how much your sales have dropped due to your competition improving the quality of their product.

 

Download our FREE intangible benefits calculator to help you calculate the value of intangible benefits.

 

Contact us for help with your project

Find out more…

 

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4 Effective Ways to Boost Factory Staff Morale and Keep The Pace Up

There are many different ways to boost staff morale, and if you do a google search like this  https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=how+to+boost+factory+staff+morale you will get 1000’s of ideas, but we want to cover 4 really important ones that are less easily found on google. These ideas are not ground-breaking, but they can have a profound impact on your staff morale, factory output and productivity.

The 4 ideas in this blog are proven to boost staff morale and keep the pace up.  They are not just ideas that we have heard of, but ideas that we have seen very successfully in action and are proven to work!

 

The Challenge

Factory staff are often working relatively long hours on repetitive tasks that quickly become mind numbing and boring. As the boredom sets in, the pace unintentionally slows and very quickly the production output can settle to a pace that is a lot less efficient and effective than it could be. Also, when staff are bored and only half concentrating on the job at hand, mistakes start to happen, which can then result in product defects or health and safety issues etc.

 

The 4 Solutions:

  1. Reduce The Walking

It a basic lean principal to reduce motion in a work cell and production area to save wasted time in walking/moving.  However, there is a further significance to reducing the walking that is not often talked about, and this is the fact that it also reduces unnecessary socialising. When staff have to walk off from the production area to get something, pass a few other staff members on the way and have a quick chat, before you know it 5 wasted minutes have passed. If there is one of these chats every 50 minutes that is reducing your productivity by 10%! I know it sounds too simple and obvious to put in a blog, but just try it, look at all the areas a production worker has to walk to during the day and try to reduce the walking to a minimum. You will reduce the chats and make significant productivity increases.

  1. Daily Improvements And Suggestions

Employee engagement is always a buzzword, and building an ownership mentality amongst all staff reaps dividends in building staff morale and productivity. How do you do this though? There is one simple method that yields large results and that is to ask all of your staff to make daily improvements or improvement suggestions. Don’t limit them to their own work area, let them make suggestions and improvements anywhere in the business; you will be amazed at what ideas come out of these sessions and how much this builds employee engagement! Ideally you need to include this in your morning huddle or start of shift stand up meeting. Simply ask all members of the team to say what improvement they made yesterday or what suggestions they have for improvements. Try and encourage staff to name something simple every day but don’t hound them if they miss a day or two. What you will find is that staff start taking ownership of improving the business and driving better results, they get motivation from seeing their improvements work and enjoy seeing management taking up their suggestions. The boost in culture from one 3 minute extra addition to your daily huddle will yield great results!  This also works in the office environment as well; here at Granta we have a whole team huddle every day and some of the suggestions that have come out of these sessions are incredible!

  1. Scoreboards Tracking A Directly Influenceable Target

Everyone loves to know if they are winning or not! If you watch kids playing football on the village green you can easily tell if they are keeping score or not just by how much energy is going into the game. Maybe you haven’t related your production line and workers to kids playing football on the village green before but in reality there is not much difference: your staff will be far more motivated with a live scoreboard than without one. There is one really important thing about the score that is being counted though and this is that the score has to be directly influenceable by the team players. If the score is not achievable, and not directly influenceable by them, it won’t have the same motivation. For example; if you had a factory with 100 staff and you had a dashboard showing total production output, although this is great and staff would be interested, it is not a good score to count. If one of those staff members works harder, or even a small team of 10 works harder, the score is not going to move much, if at all, and they can’t influence it enough. To drive real results you would need to have an individual score per person or small team so that when they put the extra effort in they get immediate results showing on the scoreboard.  As the score goes up and they can see their success on the scoreboard, the pace speeds up and production increases. It is also important to make sure that your staff are involved with setting the targets. If they set their own targets they then take ownership and drive themselves. If the targets are forced on them then there won’t be the same buy-in or motivation to meet targets.

  1. Pacing Your Staff With Automation

This is a very simple concept, if staff can work at their own pace, the pace will by default vary and will most likely slow down throughout the day. This is not intentional, it is just a fact of human nature, but it does not mean that staff are unable to work at a faster pace either. The simple solution for this is to put an automated process in the production line which will then set the pace for the workers. This could be as simple as a slow moving conveyor that moves products past staff at a set pace. The other option is to automate a part of the process that can be automated very simply and cheaply, e.g. feeding product, labelling, vision inspection, applying glue or almost anything in the production process that can be used to set the pace required. Once the pace is set by the automated process, staff happily pace themselves to the automation. This technique alone can easily increase production throughput by 20%+.

 

Conclusion

Try any or all of these 4 ideas and they will have a profound impact on staff morale and production throughput. Don’t just trust us, try it for yourself, the ideas are simple and easy to implement. If you want any further help and advice with any of these ideas get in touch and we will be glad to help.

 

 

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