With rising international wages and increasing transportation costs forcing companies to reconsider the merits of maintaining production facilities overseas, the groundwork has been laid for the offshoring of US manufacturing. An important component of the equation is the newer generation of robots, and the environment in which this shift will occur reflects new economic realities.

Despite rising wages and transportation costs, offshoring is challenging due to the lack of available labour. As a consequence of insufficient local labour, the “Great Relinquishment” is having a significant impact on the manufacturing sector.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ JOLT study, since the pandemic, the number of unfilled manufacturing jobs has increased by 6.3 per cent, costing industry $98 billion in lost industrial output by 2022. Before a significant increase in migration is conceivable, this must change.

In order to make offshoring economically viable, several manufacturers are turning to robots and other types of automation to solve this challenge.

Several manufacturers are turning to robotics and other types of automation to solve this problem, in an effort to make offshoring profitable.

Robotics is the solution for companies trying to offshore their production, as there is no end in sight to the labour shortage, according to Jerry Perez, manager of FANUC‘s Americas executive sales team.

This is corroborated by a recent report by ABB Robotics, which establishes a clear correlation between increased deployment of automation and robots and greater efficiency and offshoring. Thirty-seven percent of the 375 US companies that responded to the survey said they intended to relocate, and 41 percent said they wanted to further automate their production processes.
By adjusting the production equation calculations, robots make relocation possible,” according to Adrian Choy, product manager for robotics at OMRON. “These technologies can deliver more components per minute, automate human activities and reduce scrap rates. Robots typically produce a return on investment (ROI) within a few years.

Project offshoring benefits from newer and more sophisticated technologies, such as collaborative robots and autonomous mobile robots (AMR). Conventional industrial robots, such as parallel-arm, SCARA and articulated robots, offer the highest speed, repeatability and cycle times; however, they require automation experts to assist in the creation, programming and integration of solutions. However, these robots require guarding and other ancillary automation assets, necessitating a major overhaul of current manufacturing lines to accommodate the new systems. Currently available cobots and AMRs include features that overcome these barriers.

Robots are becoming an essential tool to increase production, reduce labour costs, improve manufacturing efficiency and free up human workers to focus on work that requires human intellect. Due to the initial and ongoing costs, as well as the lack of technical competence to integrate and operate these systems, companies have not been able to take advantage of this technology. However, these challenges are becoming easier to overcome with the development of cobots and AMR. Fewer elements, such as comprehensive protection, may be needed for these new robots to provide a complete solution. Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) models and other recent advances in the financial and technological accessibility of automation have made it possible for newcomers to employ robots to address their specific challenges.

An example of the use of this technology is Acme Alliance. Located in Northbrook, Illinois, Acme Alliance is a producer of specially developed aluminium die castings. It serves a wide range of industries, including the oil and natural gas, small engine/agriculture, automotive and shipping sectors. Acme is increasingly relying on robotics to meet the growing demand for locally manufactured components. All of its die casting machines include ABB robots that are used to extract components from the machines and spray release agent into the moulds. The two most effective technologies they use for this are automation and lean manufacturing.

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