How to Augment Lean Manufacturing with Robots

Small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses can highly benefit from adopting robots. Since many developing countries are still facing challenges in their manufacturing industry, this is the opportune time to evaluate the advantages of leveraging on robotic applications. Manufacturers have since the emergence of robotics increased the amount of industrial automation.

More than 150,000 industrial robots are sold annually according to Universal Robots, a clear indication that they have become a centerpiece of manufacturing entities regardless of their sizes. This has resulted in enhanced product quality, increased production rates, and reduced the need for human intervention.

These automation efficiencies are fast becoming a principal part of lean manufacturing while helping minimize manufacturing expenses. Adopting robotic automation does not create a lean manufacturing environment. Instead, manufacturing robots are incorporated into the manufacturing process to reinforce and promote lean manufacturing systems.

Robots and Lean Systems

The industry is yet to accomplish an ultimately lean robotic solution or even automation system. It is important to understand that automation systems can minimize profitability and accelerate waste creation when they are inadequately designed within the system.

One of the biggest challenges that engineers face today is making the manufacturing system lean. There are various factors to consider when designing lean manufacturing systems which include:

  • Permissible scrap rate
  • Station and operational cycle time needs
  • Transportation and assembly line requirements
  • Downtime data and dependability of equipment
  • Human-machine connection requirements
  • Adaptability needed for the procedure
  • Line assembly rate needs
  • Line automation needs
  • Product management needs
  • Equipment repair time
  • Support needs
  • Amount of product variants

Conventional assembly lines are specially designed to be a productive collaboration between machine and employees. Unlike humans, machines can be programmed for maximum performance, and adequate lean robotic cells need to consider that.

An appropriate automated robotic establishment should consider human volatility without limiting the establishments in order to guarantee a dependable system performance. Businesses should conduct a return on investment analysis. The outcome should determine whether they are ready to adopt robots or not.

Small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses have demonstrated that robots can enhance ROI within a manufacturing environment significantly. This is especially the case when utilizing robots to support a lean environment.

Businesses should, however, take time to plan accordingly and ensure appropriate implementation of robots within the lean manufacturing environment. Only then can they be guaranteed of optimal results.

Material Handling and Machine Tending Applications

In the past, machine handling and machine tending were manual tasks with employees moving materials from one machine to the other, and waiting until the task is completed before moving the material to the next equipment for further processing. Often, various operators are needed to execute these tasks which increase labor costs.

Currently, manufacturing robots execute high speed, heavy and repetitive tasks, and those requiring high precision efficiently. Numerous applications especially those exiting the production machine straight to the conveyor are picked and packed, while products that are packaged separately are placed into their cases automatically in readiness for palletizing.

The cases are eventually placed on the pallet using a palletizing robot. These robotic applications can be customized to fit customer requirements considering that packaging and palletizing needs vary from one customer to the other.

How do Robots Create a Lean Management System?

Material management robots can be programmed to execute extra processing operations as well as multiple tasks in between other operations. This eliminates the wait time experienced in manual processes.

Unlike manual procedures which are error-prone, robots convey minimal production loss, are more consistent and can work without taking breaks. They can withstand dust, heat, and humidity to work for prolonged periods challenging conditions.

Operating robots is less costly as opposed to human labor more so when they work overtime. Businesses can achieve return on investment fast when the manufactured product is in demand.


If used appropriately, robots can create a lean manufacturing workspace. Many companies are adopting robots to help them cut down operational expenses and enhance precision and speed, factors that human employees cannot achieve.

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