How to successfully implement an Autonomous Mobile Robot project?
It will be a good idea to start with a lighthouse project for implementing the AMR project. A lighthouse project is a test pilot initiative that can be used to validate the project’s investment-assumptions and provide the proof of concept. Through this approach, the benefits of automating some of the tasks with the help of AMRs can be established.
- The autonomous mobile robot (AMR) market is one of the fastest evolving & growing and it is expected to remain so in the coming years. Many companies have started uncovering opportunities to use AMRs to execute the tasks, associated with material handling and mobility operations, such as receiving / unloading, picking & stacking, storing, packing, dispatching/loading onto trucks or wagons, inventory management etc. Until recent times, these boring and hazardous tasks are typically performed by unwilling workers. To perform these tasks more efficiently, robots that could move on their own are required and only in recent years have they become commercially available.
Material handling and transportation operations abound in business sectors, such as e-commerce, logistics & retailing, manufacturing, healthcare, and public services that include hotels and airports. The benefits of automating these tasks with the help of robots are well recognized but present challenges as they required robots with autonomous-mobility abilities and desired safety features. Since such robots, autonomous mobile robots, suitable for industrial applications, are now available many companies are taking initiatives to deploy them. They aim to improve their overall performance, achieve cost savings, enhance profitability, etc.
Understand AMR’s capabilities and leverage them
Implementation of AMR deployments starts with the
- – understanding the AMR’s capabilities and benefits of deploying of them
- – identifying the jobs which with the help of AMRs can be performed more efficiently
- – figuring out the key performance metrics (KPI) that must be met
- – shortlisting the jobs that have a clear business case and prioritizing them for implementation.
Prepare preliminary project report
The company, which wants to invest in AMRs, must prepare the preliminary project report clearly
- – identifying upfront the business objectives it wants to realize
- – laying out a broad plan to accomplish the same & the timeline for the project
- – preparing the cost estimates
Ensuring the availability of necessary financial and skilled human resources is essential for the success of the AMR project initiatives. A preliminary project report incorporating the business objectives & assessment of the financial and human resources required and suggesting the lighthouse project approach made be prepared
Adopt the lighthouse project approach
It will be a good idea to start with a lighthouse project for implementing the AMR project. A lighthouse project is a test pilot initiative that can be used to validate the project’s investment assumptions and provide proof of concept. Through this approach, the benefits of automating some of the tasks with the help of AMRs can be established. The lighthouse project approach enables the companies to experiment with concepts and to obtain real-time feedback about the effectiveness of their strategic initiatives. The goal of a lighthouse project is to discover the means to succeed. The lighthouse project approach is a tried and tested concept that is adopted by companies that seek to establish the feasibility of success of a new concept. This approach provides the leeway for constant and iterative experimentation.
Work with an implementation partner
AMRs are cyber physical systems that can move autonomously from one location to the other without colliding with obstacles on their path or causing damage to them with the help of embedded sensors and computing & communicating systems. They can be used to automate various tasks associated with material handling, mobility, etc. To carry out the selection, configuration, programming, installation, commissioning, and such other things of AMRs, the services of an implementation partner, also referred to as system integrators or merely as integrators, may be ideally leveraged.
Important considerations to be taken into account
With the help of the lessons learnt from the lighthouse project, companies will be better equipped to prepare the detailed AMR project report, which may take into consideration the following points.
- – Features to look for in an AMR, while selecting it, are dictated by the application needs. It is good to realize that feature-rich AMR is not necessarily the best for all applications. Therefore, select accordingly the AMR that meets the specific application needs. In all instances, safety feature is very important and cannot be compromised
- – It will be a good idea for the companies that are planning to invest in AMRs for the first time to start with the easier-to-implement specific applications, gain experience and confidence, and revalidate the return on investment (ROI) assumptions and expand to other applications.
- – While taking decisions about the introduction of AMRs it will be beneficial to involve the workers, especially those who will be working alongside the AMRs. That will help in making the workers aware of the benefits of the use of AMRs & reasons for deciding to use them; securing workers’ support will go a long way in ensuring the success of the robotic automation initiative. Most importantly, the workers must be assured of two things; safety features are very much a part of the AMRs and everything possible will be done to ensure their personal safety; and AMRs will help them to enhance their work efficiency
- – Many suppliers are offering their AMRs on a pay-as-you-use or lease basis. A company, which wants proof of concept before making the investments in them or a low-cost entry to robotic automation, can work with suppliers that offer AMRs on Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) or on a lease basis. Thereby companies can avoid incurring capital expenditure and maintenance expenses
- – While contemplating investing in AMRs, companies must recognize that they are seeking solutions to improve the efficiency and productivity of their material handling, mobility-related, and other operations and not just investing in a product or a system. Deploying AMRs involves a significant amount of engineering work, such as programming to meet the specific applications, customization efforts for the specific application, site layouts such as route planning and facility mapping, commissioning, and preparation of the as-commissioned document. It will be necessary for companies to look for an approved implementation partner who not only has the technical knowledge about AMRs but also has the necessary skills to maximize the benefits from the investments and extract the full value through proper application engineering
- – Ensure that safety and cyber security features are incorporated in the AMRs and that it is possible to upgrade them as technology evolves
- – Seek information about the suppliers’ commitment to conform to the available industry standards and future enhancements
- – Seek assurance from suppliers about the software updates, hardware fixes, and redesigns
With the lessons learnt from the lighthouse project and the support of a competent implementation partner, the companies will succeed in the successful deployment of AMRs.
[15:35] Harish Sonawane
Senior Advisor- Quadrant Knowledge Solutions