Systems integrators are a key part of the robotics ecosystem, helping businesses decide where and how to apply automation. Applied Manufacturing Technologies is an example, providing risk assessment, simulation, manufacturing engineering, and other services to companies looking to automate.
As part of Robotics Business Review‘s Chief Robotics Officer Summit next month, Craig Salvalaggio, vice president of sales and engineering at Applied Manufacturing Technologies in Orion, Mich., will deliver a presentation on the “Automation Roadmap: The Relationship Between You and Your Systems Integrator.”
We spoke with Salvalaggio about the role of the chief robotics officer (CRO), what industrial automation users should know about integrators, and a preview of his session in the CRO Online Summit.
Q: How would you define the CRO role?
Salvalaggio: The CRO is an executive aimed at driving automation forward within an organization. Every end user looking for future business growth and efficiency in manufacturing or supply-chain operations should combine the correct levels of labor, automation, and quality processes to ensure its competitive advantage.
Not only should the CRO be knowledgeable about robotics and automated processes, but he or she should also be the champion of the standards, internal center of excellence, and Industry 4.0 strategies within the organization.
CROs should position themselves as a part of the core executive team and own the automation road map for their organizations.
Q: Has Applied Manufacturing Technologies worked with CROs?
Salvalaggio: Applied Manufacturing Technologies works with a variety of robot manufacturers, integrators, and end users.
In each case, there is always one individual with a prominent voice and subject-matter expertise in robotics and automation who drives these initiatives forward.
Typically, it’s the vice president of engineering or the director of engineering. Having a champion at the executive level as a CRO should be viewed as important within any company with a forward-thinking approach.
Q: Are you seeing smaller and midsize enterprises adopting automation?
Salvalaggio: We are seeing and hearing more stories of organizations struggling to find consistent labor that enjoys the tasks required for many manufacturing and assembly processes.
With that, they have high turnover, higher labor costs, and undesirable variation in consistency of quality. These jobs are ripe for automation, which allows factories and warehouses to re-purpose labor to more interesting and satisfying jobs.
Q: What are the most common questions you and AMT encounter as companies begin to automate?
Salvalaggio: Here are some examples:
- Current levels and costs of direct labor (DL), desired DL, target returns on investment (ROI)
- Lead time for equipment
- Can I just purchase a robot? Customers need to look at safety standards, automation versus custom engineering, product management, etc.
- Should we integrate systems internally or bring in an integrator?
And here are AMT’s approach and questions:
- Why are you trying to automate?
- Where do robots make sense in your processes?
- What level of automation is appropriate for your facility?
- How would robots be accepted in your facility?
- How much would automation cost, and is there a business case for it?
Q: Vendors naturally prefer to say that they can provide everything customers need, but how important are integrators and heterogeneous environments?
Salvalaggio: Automation is everywhere, but we are hearing and seeing more and more stories about systems that did not deliver and were decommissioned or projects where the budget and schedule exploded.
The robotics integrator space includes integrators that specialize in certain applications, such as welding, painting, material removal, vision, assembly, etc.
It’s important that an integrator understand the end user’s processes and application and not try to re-invent the wheel.
A failed automation project can have lifelong effects on brand and reputation. It can have negative cultural impacts to the end user, making the next project that much more difficult to sell and accomplish.
Q: How much do CROs and people in that role need to know about standards and certifications?
Salvalaggio: CROs and automation champions need to have a good understanding on existing and emerging products, software specifications and standards, and industry certifications.
For example, the RIA has its Certified Integrator Program, the Control System Integrators Association offers a controls certification, and FANUC has its Authorized System Integrator (ASI).
These give you a sense of who the players are and what the technology’s capabilities and limitations are.
Q: What can viewers of your webcast look forward to learning?
Salvalaggio: In “Automation Roadmap,” I’ll discuss the roles of the end user and integrators. We’ll look at how to create an infrastructure and best practices for introducing automation.
I’ll also examine the possible need to change the corporate culture, as well as investment considerations. We’ll also review the safety implications of robotics and what to consider in a risk assessment.
Editor’s Note: We’ll be posting Q&As with more speakers leading into this event. Register now for the CRO Online Summit, which will be on Dec. 5, 2018.