Automation in medium-sized businesses pays off


Robotics specialist KUKA explains how automation offers benefits not just to industry giants but to small and medium-sized enterprises, too, fostering enhanced success, heightened productivity and increased employer appeal. 

To remain competitive in an increasingly competitive market, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) must enhance efficiency and productivity. One way to achieve this is through the implementation of robotics and automation in production processes. But how can SMEs efficiently optimise established processes by leveraging robotics and automation technologies, and what are the benefits?

Identify the opportunities 

To effectively optimise production processes using robotics and automation, a thorough assessment of existing operations must take place – don’t automate for the sake of automating. SMEs must identify processes that can truly benefit from automation and deliver value across their process chains. These could include repetitive tasks, high-risk activities, or processes that may attract high labour costs. A comprehensive analysis can enable SMEs to pinpoint areas where automation can have the biggest impact.

 Ensured quality control 

Automation systems are extremely reliable and can maintain consistent product quality output. In SMEs, where resources might be limited, product consistency and quality are crucial for establishing and maintaining a strong reputation and building customer trust. Robots have been proven to perform tasks with both precision and repeatability, reducing manufacturing errors.

Enhanced efficiency 

One of the primary reasons SMEs adopt automation is to enhance efficiency and productivity. By automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks, output can be increased without significantly impacting labour. This allows SMEs to meet growing demand, reduce customer lead times, and improve their production efficiencies.

Improved safety

Automated production processes can lead to a safer working environment. Robots are able to safely handle dangerous materials or manage physically demanding tasks that can create risks for human workers.

Data-driven decisions

Modern automation systems can be equipped with sensors that enable data collection. SMEs can leverage this data to achieve valuable insights into their processes. By analysing the data generated by automated systems, SMEs can identify bottlenecks, address inefficiencies, and strive for continuous operational improvement. A data-driven approach allows SMEs to make informed decisions and continually optimise processes based on fact.

Scalability and adaptability

SMEs face fluctuating demand and constantly changing market dynamics. Robotics and automation can be scaled up or down to accommodate these changes. Scalability provides SMEs with the flexibility to adapt to such changes quickly, making them more resilient and competitive.

Competitive advantage

Robotics and automation can give an SME a significant competitive advantage by streamlining production processes. Costs are reduced, product quality is improved, and response times can help SMEs compete with larger companies, as they can react to changing trends. Customers are also more likely to choose suppliers that can not only deliver high-quality products quickly and reliably but also demonstrate that they are innovative and looking to the future.

SMEs are currently grappling with significant challenges, including soaring energy costs, supply bottlenecks for essential production materials, and a challenging labour market characterised by a severe shortage of skilled workers. These hurdles are further compounded by the pressing need to swiftly and flexibly respond to evolving customer demands and changes within their own production processes. While it’s important to acknowledge that automation might not offer a one-size-fits-all solution to every challenge faced by SMEs, it undenia­bly holds the key to addressing many of them.

Investing in automation is worthwhile – that’s what those who have done so know. Because the risk is low, and the opportunities are huge. Robots perfectly complement well-established human teams and master their tasks reliably and precisely, whether it is palletising, loading and unloading machines, quality control or welding. They take over unergonomic, stressful, monotonous and time-consuming work. Emp­loyees are therefore physically relieved, and more high-pro­file activities can be undertaken.

The strategic utilisation of robotics and automation can have a transformative impact on SMEs’ production processes. By identifying opportunities for automation, selecting the right technology, and investing in integration and training, SMEs can enhance efficiency, reduce costs, improve product quality, and gain a competitive edge. The long-term benefits in terms of productivity, scalability, and adaptability make automation an essential tool for SMEs looking to thrive in today’s dynamic business environment.

As technology continues to evolve, SMEs that embrace automation will be well-positioned to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.


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