Title

Reusing Industrial robots to Achieve Sustainability in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-2015

Publication Source

Industrial Robot

Volume

42

Issue

3

Inclusive pages

264-273

DOI

10.1108/IR-12-2014-0441

Publisher

Emerald Group Publishing Ltd.

ISBN/ISSN

0143991X

Peer Reviewed

yes

Abstract

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the importance of redesigning, reusing, remanufacturing, recovering, recycling and reducing (6R) to sustainable manufacturing and discuss the general procedure to reconfigure robots. Two critical challenges in adopting industrial robots in small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) are flexibility and cost, as the number of tasks of the same type can be limited because of the size of an SME. The challenges can be alleviated by 6R. The 6R processes allow a robot to adopt new tasks, increase its utilization rate and reduce unit costs of products. Design/methodology/approach - There is no shortcut to implement sustainable manufacturing. All of the manufacturing resources in a system should be planned optimally to reduce waste and maximize the utilization rates of resources. In this paper, modularization and reconfiguration are emphasized to implement 6R processes in sustainable manufacturing; robots are especially taken into consideration as core functional modules in the system. Modular architecture makes it feasible to integrate robots with low-cost customized modules for various tasks for the high utilization rates. A case study is provided to show the feasibility. Findings - Finding the ways to reuse manufacturing resources could bring significant competitiveness to an SME, in the sense that sophisticated machines and tools, such as robots, can be highly utilized even in a manufacturing environment with low or medium product volumes. The concepts of modularization and 6R processes can be synergized to achieve this goal. Research limitations/implications - The authors propose the strategy to enhance the utilization rates of core manufacturing resources using modular architecture and 6R practice. The axiomatic design theory can be applied as the theoretical fundamental to guide the 6R processes; however, a universal solution in the implementation is not available. The solutions have to be tailored to specific SMEs, and the solutions should vary with respect to time. Practical implications - To operate a sustainable manufacturing system, a continuous design effort is required to reconfigure existing resources and enhance their capabilities to fulfill new tasks in the dynamic environment. Social implications - The authors focus on the importance of sustainable manufacturing to modern society, and they achieve this goal by reusing robots as system components in different applications. Originality/value - Sustainable manufacturing has attracted a great deal of attention, although the operable guidance for system implementation is scarce. The presented work has thrown some light in this research area. The 6R concept has been introduced in a modular system to maximize the utilizations of critical manufacturing resources. It is particularly advantageous for SMEs to adopt sophisticated robots cost-effectively.

Keywords

Automatic assembly, Flexible manufacturing, Man machine interface (MMI), Mass customization, Modular automation, Robot design, Costs, Design, Enterprise resource planning, Industrial economics, Industrial robots, Machine design, Manufacture, Modular construction, Robots, Sustainable development, Telecommunication services, Industrial research

Disciplines

Engineering

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