Robotics continues to advance at a rapid pace. Robotic automation is now more accessible, cost-effective and safe than in the past.

For businesses, automation will be essential to address a wide range of manufacturing challenges, including increasing productivity, improving efficiencies and product quality, and redeploying teams to higher-value work.

Launching a guide published by ifac and Reliance Automation for Irish food and agribusinesses turning to automation, to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and get ready for Brexit, were Robert Troy T.D., and Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation; David Leydon, Head of Food and Agribusiness at ifac; Peter Creighton, Managing Director of Reliance Automation Pic Julien Behal Photography

Ifac has partnered with Reliance Automation to publish a guide to help Irish food businesses move to automation.

The guide covers all aspects of planning and implementing automation projects, return on investment, funding your investment in automation and business process automation.

Eight steps

Developing a robotic solution for your business can be complex. Below are eight key steps if you’re considering robotics for your business.

1. Opportunity

Businesses must first identify the application opportunities for innovation and automation.

Map out exactly what it is you want your robot to do. Start small and keep it simple, building up to more complex applications after you’ve gained more experience with robots.

2. Feasibility

Conduct a feasibility study to establish that your objectives for the robot are feasible.

It is highly recommended to take pictures and videos of the process you want to automate. This will help you define each step of the application.

You will then be able to examine the application and share details of it with an expert who can advise on feasibility.

3. Review design

Review the design layout, incorporating the most suitable technologies to automate the required application. This should include a complete risk assessment, which must be undertaken before any robot installation.

4. Determine and agree finance

Conduct a cost-benefit analysis, identify the projected return on investment and agree how the project will be financed, including looking for suitable grants and supports from Enterprise Ireland or your local enterprise office.

5. Build your own robot deployment team

One of the biggest challenges of introducing robots in the workplace is convincing the rest of your team that it is a good idea.

The goal of robots is not to eliminate jobs by replacing staff. The goal is to eliminate monotonous and repetitive tasks so your own team can focus on more value-added activities. This boosts productivity, prosperity and team morale.

6. Commission your robotic solution

Depending on the application, work with your robotic partner and an integration partner to ensure the required end design and optimum performance is achieved.

7. Train your team

It is very important to understand how your new robot works and how to manage it. Training should be orientated towards both management and staff.

8. Monitor service

To ensure consistently good performance, ensure you have monitoring services either on site or remotely via data connections and cameras on the machines.