Companies must allocate funds for a risk assessment to ensure compliance with RIA safety regulations, as industrial robotic technologies are a costly investment. The cost of safety precautions suggested in a risk assessment can exceed $15,000 for a robot costing between $50,000 and $60,000. Omitting safety jeopardises workers’ lives, legal liabilities, insurance and shutdowns. Many aerospace and defence manufacturers are unaware of the benefits of automated systems, which can cause short-term inconvenience for long-term rewards. For example, one robotics supplier calculated that, over its lifetime, a $1.8 million robot would cost only 36 cents per hour to operate.
Manufacturing companies need the ROI of automation, as it allows them to deduct costly equipment expenses using depreciation techniques. On their 2021 income tax returns, small businesses can deduct up to $1 million in qualifying equipment. Beyond the tax benefits, automation also provides a good return on investment (ROI), as robots can provide cost savings by reducing labour costs and improving production efficiency. This is crucial in aerospace and defence manufacturing, where robots can save a lot of time.
Thanks to higher robot performance and lower error rates, industrial processes with higher quality increase the return on investment. Better work is produced as a result of these efficiencies, which also decrease the amount of time spent correcting errors and increase human job satisfaction. Humans don’t want to do boring, risky or dirty jobs, so robots take care of them. Reduced staff turnover as a result of this increased worker satisfaction saves costs of hiring and training new employees.
By using a robotic painting system to restore the performance coatings on the air intake ducts of F-22 Raptor aircraft, the US Air Force has saved nearly $9 million over the course of six years. Requiring only 300 hours of labour per unit, compared to 1,600 hours by hand, this automated approach has significantly reduced labour costs. The robotic system has also saved the Air Force $8.8m, or $220,000 per aircraft, in maintenance costs since 2016. The Air Force’s overall efficiency and profitability have increased significantly as a result of this return on investment in automation.
The automated technique can coat an F-22 aircraft several times before the life of the coating is exhausted, minimising waste and saving about $40,000 per aircraft. Highly developed coatings cost about $1,000 per gallon, and more efficient use can save about $40,000 per aircraft. Automated painting increases accuracy and quality control and improves the F-22 aircraft’s performance signature against radar. Thanks to automated technology, the air force has seen a decrease in worker injuries, as shoulder injuries are often caused by human application of coatings in confined spaces. Robots produce higher throughput and reduce workplace accidents.
Cost-benefit analyses from A&D organisations and the industrial sector show that automated systems have a significant return on investment. Automation reduced total labour utilisation by up to 2.3 times and overheads by 60% in six out of ten situations analysed. This technology is promising for different robot types, mobility, autonomy, size, business models and locations.
The potential benefits of automation in the production process are shown through a Fanuc case study. Robots can speed up production, reduce processing times and increase the operational lifetime of critical parts. Automated functions that detect power outages stop operations and prevent machine parts from being scrapped. Robots can work around the clock, cope with peaks in demand and offer cost-effectiveness by reducing the price of labour from other countries. Robotic systems can show a manufacturer’s dedication to technology and possible future expansion of the company.
According to studies, companies that use the right robots and integrate them well can save costs and increase production. However, a successful installation requires finding an expert integrator. While the initial investment may be significant, it can be recouped through increased profitability, time and labour savings, higher production quality, workplace safety and staff retention.
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