Manufacturing Automation Using Robotics For Small and Medium Sized Enterprises


Manufacturing Automation Using Robotics For Small and Medium Sized Enterprises




Manufacturing Automation Using Robotics For Small and Medium Sized Enterprises


In the current setting, the business environment is undergoing various changes that have created uncertainty. This is primarily because the process of production and manufacturing is becoming more complex with technological advancement and globalization (ElMaraghy, 2009). One of the main issues that have been identified is the low availability of human labor as well as difficulties in recruitment. Many companies and industries have resorted to improving performance and efficiency through industrial production of robotics and their automation (Bi, Liu, Baumgartner, Culver, Sorokin & Peters, 2015). The main area that has posed a threat to the implementation of this strategy especially with regards to robotics in small businesses is investment capital. With the continuous increase of the demand for high efficient, flexible and adaptable automated systems, which allows for mass production of several varieties of products and service, more research is being conducted on evaluating the effect of automation on business from a small and large scale perspective. This paper seeks to point out the intricacies pertaining to automation of robots in small and medium sized enterprises, SMEs, as well as provide exemplary instances that validate the importance of implementing robots in businesses.


Advantages of Manufacturing Automation Using Robots for SMEs

Flexibility is a concept that is highly coveted in the business domain hence the positive reception of robot automation in manufacturing. As a concept that has been published and researched for decades, it has been considered a necessary aspect that is required in businesses to deal with external and internal disturbances within an organizational setting (Bi, Liu, Baumgartner, Culver, Sorokin & Peters, 2015). With regards to manufacturing systems, flexibility deals with the ability of change depending on the system’s sensitivity. Automated robots are observed to possess the ability to quickly adapt and deal with changes in an effectual manner. With this in mind, automated robot systems are likely to handle the disturbances effortlessly hence increasing production, efficiency and performance. Due to this positive element that has promoted the use of robots in manufacturing, it has promoted the integration of more strategies that directed towards providing flexible robots to the SMEs

Reconfigurability enhances the manner in which an automated robot is able to respond to changes hence increases responsiveness and reduces on time wasted analyzing logistics pertaining to the made changes (Dietz, 2014). This is an area that has been intricately researched for more knowledge to be gathered concerning the Reconfigurable Manufacturing System. An additional positive benefit gained from these systems is the overcapacity limit for its functionality. This translates to the fact that their designed in-built systems facilitate quick responses to the internal and external changes that occur during the manufacturing processes through the use of modular software and hardware structures (Dietz, 2014). One of the major features that allow these systems to function efficiently with regards to reconfiguring is their ability to rearrange reliably and quickly. With the increasing demand of automated robots in the business arena, SMEs can also greatly benefit economically from incorporating robots in their manufacturing and production departments.

Automation is an evasive strategy that might assist an SME to curtail issues pertaining to recruitment, dealing with human resources as well as inefficiency in product manufacturing (Bona, Carlone, Indri & Rosa, 2014). Its implementation within an organizational framework is considered one of the most effective methods that work towards improving performance, efficiency and productivity. The flexibility aspect is also brought forth with this automation. According to scholars, the incorporation of robots has allowed manufacturers to exploit environments that are unsuitable for human employees by replacing humans with these automated machines (Dietz, 2014). Hazardous environments no longer pose as a threat primarily because robots function in any surrounding. Through their ability to allow for production even in harsh environments, robots present the SMEs with a platform to increase production and narrow the competition from other manufacturers.

Large volume manufacturing is another positive aspect that is derived from using automated robots. Ever since the first robot prototypes were invented, the unchanging sentiment forwarded by scholars is rewarding benefits from use of automated machines with large production being the main aspect (Horizon 2020, 2015). This type of production is enabled by numerous features incorporated in robots. Some of these features include highly adaptable software systems, durable hardware and fast production time spans. Small companies, which offer several products but experience small production volume are able to increase their capacity through incorporating robots (Bona, Carlone, Indri & Rosa, 2014). This is because reconfiguring allows for the robots to produce the said variable products at the same work station. This results into increased profits margin and sound return for the automation investment. More SMEs should focus on implementing automated robots to facilitate higher production and increased efficiency as well as quality.

Increased employment opportunities have been a direct consequential outcome of incorporating robots in businesses (Forge, Blackman & Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, 2010). According to statistics, the robot industry generates an approximated 150,000 jobs globally with an additional 150,000 people being employed as operators and support staff (Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 1980). There are several instances that exemplify the manner in which robots have generated employment opportunities. Firstly, if a product cannot be consistently and precisely produced by robots, the human element is introduced (Bolmsjo, 2014). They can be operators that are skilled in managing the robots or support staff that will assist in the production process. Secondly, in instances where the conditions are unsuitable for the staff, the robots are employed. Lastly, they are used when a company seeks to produce a product in a high labor cost locality at lower costs.

Disadvantage of Manufacturing Automation Using Robots for SMEs

Integration of robots in SMEs is a very costly endeavor hence it can be considered as a fiscal-related problem. The initial investment for incorporating automated robots in a business is deterred financial limitation (Godara & IGI Global, 2010). This is especially observed in startup or established SMEs whereby the owners strive to limit the costs of purchases made especially when it concerns new robot equipment. Hence, it is imperative for a costs analysis that focuses on the robot purchase to be conducted to conclude the financial budget (Plauska, Lukas & Damasevicius, 2014). Another additional expense, which limits the implementation of robots, is the maintenance costs that can have a toll on the financial aspect of the organization.

Displacement of employees is considered as one of the negative consequences of implementing automated robot usage in an organizational setting (Plauska, Lukas & Damasevicius, 2014). The main reason why employees are laid off is because robots provide more output as compared to the staff as well as increased flexibility in terms of working in harsh environment and higher performance (Horizon 2020, 2015). From a futuristic angle, the displacement is predicted to occur at a larger scale especially considering increased scientific research is being conducted to enable more production of these machinery. Due to this, more displacement will occur in the service industry such as fast food chains, banking and retailing petrol forecourts.

Sample of Successful Implementation of Robots in SMEs

There are several SMEs companies that have successfully implemented robotics in their operational processes. One of the main examples that have been identified is Paul Treffler Stahl- und Maschinenbau Company. This is a German company located at Augsburg. This engineering company has incorporated robots in their welding tasks (Godara & IGI Global, 2010). The robots used are termed as projects assistants who through intuitive response are able to react effectively to commands that require welding as well as fabrication of the farm work machines. The robots are reprogrammed shortly after the welding tasks are performed. The reprogramming time is restricted to five minutes where software tools are readjusted to suit the new task. Some of these softwares are used include 3D graphic and tactile interfaces (Nilsson, 2005). The main use for these softwares is recording, replaying and adapting robot motions as well as archiving programmes.


Integration of robots in small business and medium sized enterprises is a positive endeavor. This is justified through beneficial features such as flexibility, reconfigurability, large manufacturing volume, high performance and efficiency. The aforementioned features are considered essential for any business hence the primary reason for SMEs to invest into accessing labor from robots.

Bi, Z., Liu, Y., Baumgartner, B., Culver, E., Sorokin, J., & Peters, A. et al. (2015). Reusing industrial robots to achieve sustainability in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Industrial Robot, 42(3), 264-273.

Godara, V., & IGI Global. (2010). Pervasive computing for business: Trends and applications. Hershey, Pa: IGI Global (701 E. Chocolate Avenue, Hershey, Pennsylvania, 17033, USA.

Horizon 2020,. (2015). Smart, affordable robots for small companies – Horizon 2020 – European Commission. Retrieved 19 November 2015, from

Nilsson, Klas, Johansson, Rolf, Robertsson, Anders, Bischoff, Rainer, Brogårdh, Torgny, & Hägele, Martin. (2005). Productive Robots and the SMErobot Project. FOI, Swedish Defence Research Agency; Stockholm.

Plauska, I., Lukas, R., & Damasevicius, R. (2014). Reflections on Using Robots and Visual Programming Environments for Project-Based Teaching. Electronics And Electrical Engineering, 20(1).

Society of Manufacturing Engineers. (1980). Robotics today. Dearborn, Mich: Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Forge, S., Blackman, C., & Institute for Prospective Technological Studies. (2010). A helping hand for Europe: The competitive outlook for the EU robotics industry. Luxembourg: Publications Office.

Bona, B., Carlone, L., Indri, M., & Rosa, S. (2014). Supervision and monitoring of logistic spaces by a cooperative robot team: methodologies, problems, and solutions. Intelligent Service Robotics, 7(4), 185-202.

Borenstein, J., Raschke, U., & Society of Manufacturing Engineers. (1991). Real-time obstacle avoidance for non-point mobile robots. Dearborn, Mich: Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Bolmsjo, G. (2014). Reconfigurable and Flexible Industrial Robot Systems. Adv Robot Autom, 03(01).

ElMaraghy, H. A. (2009). Changeable and Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems. London: Springer London.

Mehrabi, M. G., Ulsoy, A. G., Koren, Y., & Heytler, P. (2002). Trends and perspectives in flexible and reconfigurable manufacturing systems. Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing, 13, 2, 135-146.

Pires, J. N., Loureiro, A., & Bolmsjö, G. (2006). Welding robots: Technology, system issues and applications. (Springer e-books.) London: Springer.,. (2015). Adoption of Robotics in SMEs to Boost Demand from Global Industrial Robotics Market. Retrieved 19 November 2015, from

Dietz, T., Schneider, U., Barho, M., Oberer-Treitz, S., Drust, M., Hollmann, R., & Hagele, M. (2014). Programming System for Efficient Use of Industrial Robots for Deburring in SME Environments


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