Design Finalization: Lean Robotics Basics

You came up with a concept and compared it to your current situation. Now you’re going to make a decision about whether or not it’s a good project to pursue, and if so, what exactly that project should be, using the steps shown in the figure below:

We will show you how to draw the line between what’s acceptable and what’s not for your minimum viable product cell (MVPC). We will start with some financial calculations, and then you might need to test some proofs of concept to eliminate uncertainty and de-risk your final design. Once this is done and you have purchased and received your parts, you can consider the design phase complete!


Calculate Return on Investment

As with any capital investment in your factory, you probably have a process for calculating return on investment (ROI) and getting the investment approved. The ROI is calculated as follows:

ROI = (gain from investment – cost of investment) / cost of investment

This is a standard formula that any company owner or head of finance will be familiar with. We will discuss a few things you should consider when you calculate the ROI for your first robotic cell. At this point, you should be able to estimate the cost of investment as the sum of:

  • Cost of material needed (as identified at the robotic cell concept step).
  • Cost of labor needed to perform the tasks (going from a manual to a robotic cell) that were identified at the manual-robotic comparison step.

If you’re working with system integrators, the estimated cost of investment will be on the quote they provide you.

An ROI calculator can be used to find out how long it would take you to pay back your robotic investment. See our ROI calculator below.

 Download the ROI Calculator

It allows you to analyze:

  • Baselines
  • Investment
  • Potential scenarios
  • Cost of a robotic cell

You can also refer to this Blog on the specific Robot Surface Finishing ROI Calculation:

  9 Steps to Calculate the ROI of Robot Surface Finishing

De-Risk the Concept

At that point, you might face some uncertainties regarding the feasibility or cost of the robotic cell concept. Resolving these uncertainties might be worth investing in some effort. Since it’s best to find out as soon as possible if certain aspects of the concept will never work, a small up-front investment here can save a lot of time and money with the remainder of the project. This step typically includes a “technical check” to make sure all the components are appropriate, and that it is possible to assemble and connect them together. 

Write down all the questions you still have about your concept. Then answer each question with an educated guess that’s phrased in the form of a hypothesis.

Go through your answers, and ask yourself:

  • How confident am I that this hypothesis is correct?
  • If my hypothesis is wrong, what will the consequences be?

In other words, how important is it for that hypothesis to be right?
Make sure you write your answers down. It helps to step back and observe your thoughts from a more detached perspective.
For questions where it’s critical, you’ll either have to live dangerously (not recommended) or come up with a way to validate them.
Assuming you choose the latter, you should fill in the italicized sections of the table: define a potential validation method and estimate its time and cost. Don’t hesitate to turn to external vendors, many of which can perform technical validations for you.


Freeze the MVPC Concept

In this step, you will decide which aspects of the concept will remain part of the MVPC. After this point, you’ll aim to get through the Integrate phase without making any further changes to the design. This will prevent you from falling into the trap of losing sight of the end goal and adding too much complexity along the way.
In the robotic task mapping step, you worked with at least one robotic cell concept. Ask yourself: for the things that could be changed about the cell, what effect would change them have on complexity, KPIs and ROI? Did you discover anything in the de-risking phase that affected the cell concept? Now’s the time to take a close look at these questions.
It’s like conducting a sensitivity analysis with a financial spreadsheet: you change a few variables and see how the end result is affected. If there are a lot of ways for the concept to change, it might be worth taking a few variations as standalone concepts and comparing them.

It’s often not worth it to build a cell that can handle every type of part it could possibly encounter. Similarly, it might not be a good idea to attempt to build a cell that could execute every possible type of task you might need it to perform.


Obtain Material

At this stage, you will refine the robotic cell concept by making plans and drawing up a list of materials needed. The key deliverables here are the following:

  • Final robotic task map
  • Cell final design documentation 
    • Cell layout
    • Plans for mechanical components
    • Electrical diagrams
    • Bill of materials (to be used when purchasing)
    • High-level programming structure
    • List of suppliers and their part numbers

By this point, you’ll have completed the deliverables of the Design phase. More specifically, you will have:

  • A finished robotic cell plan
  • All the equipment you need, at your facility, and ready to be assembled.

While you’re waiting for equipment to be delivered, it’s a good time to start planning the Integrate phase.

Last modified: Monday, 29 June 2020, 4:03 PM