Be the first to hear our latest news

Automation for SME’s – is there a solution?

Oct 16, 2019

The benefits that this technology provides certainly cannot to be ignored. Automation cannot only increase productivity due to the tireless work of robots, but it can also cut costs due to consistent production.

However, robotics and full automation is both expensive and hard to implement. As a result, most SMEs choose not to implement this new tech. It is not that SMEs won’t benefit from automation and robotics; the requirements are currently just too prohibitive for wide scale adoption by smaller businesses.

Cobots are designed to support human tasksCobots

Enter ‘cobots’. Cobots are robots designed to interact with humans in the physical world in order to support a job or task. Rather than a fully autonomous assembly line, a cobot will perform a certain task that will help humans with their own task. 

Cobots could serve as an alternative to automated assembly lines. SMEs are the backbone of most of the world’s economies, for example, countries such as Malaysia and Singapore have an SME composition that is over 90 per cent of their total businesses. 

SME’s must get involved

In order to remain competitive in a global marketplace, SMEs need to get involved with robotics. The tech provides sheer precision, cost-effectiveness, and competitiveness that small players would otherwise never have.

Fortunately, the costs of cobots are dropping drastically, making it easier for companies to explore the use of cobots in the manufacturing environment.

Cobots are also incredibly easy to add to existing workplace layouts, making them easy to test and trial. 

Robotics-as-a-service (RaaS)

But there is another option – a new business model made possible by connecting the robotic capabilities through the cloud and making them available as a service, would mean the companies that use them don’t have to build or even buy the systems themselves. 

While businesses with more resources at their disposal often purchase the robots they need outright, those without that kind of cash flow can opt to only pay the “monthly per robot fee” with no upfront costs. 

(Extracts from “Are Cobots the Solution for SME’s?” SME Magazine, May 14th 2019)

Tim's thoughts

Plunkett Associates thoughts…

Schemes like these can make automation much more accessible for the smaller business and we have found using cobots a fabulous way forwards within our business.

One of the biggest concerns I had was making sure that we were able to make it work well enough to achieve a return on investment. I could not help but recall the factory tours where the robot was doing nothing but gathering dust in the corner. It was a step into the unknown, or a simple ‘more of the same’ option that kept me up at nights.

Eventually we took the plunge and as is so often the case, it is the people who make it work. The robot or cobot is not really the problem; the work is in making it interface to all your other systems.

So advice is great but what would make the biggest difference would be a ‘help line’ for when, as predictably one does, the ideas and things to try just dry up. If other SME’s are like this one, six figure costs are for the big guys, turnkey solutions are just unjustifiable, we need a place to go to get 80% of the potential working….then we won’t look back.

  • Plunkett Associates worked on the design and production of titanium frames for an artificial heart valve where precision and consistency was paramount. Communications were efficient and productive with concepts readily incorporated into the final design, and suggestions for improvements all highly appropriate. The quality of the end product was ideal and I have no doubt that I will use the advice and expertise of Plunkett Associates again.
    David Wheatley, Wheatley Research Ltd
  • “Doing business with you has been an absolute pleasure. You have made my goals a reality. You have been patient, helpful and above all, responsive. Best service that I have experienced in ages. I consider Plunkett Associates to be an integral part of my business plan moving forward.”
    Jet Cooper, Sculptor
  • Thanks for the present that arrived this morning, as promised. Parts look first class, as always.
    Jon Todd, Design Manager, PHS Group
  • Plunketts developed a solution that met our precision requirements at a cost significantly lower than alternative manufacturing approaches we had investigated
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
  • Plunkett Associates have excellent breadth of experience, work with high quality partners and have a flexibility that we have found enables challenges to be met successfully, cost effectively and in a timely manner.
    Nick Skaer, CEO, Orthox Ltd
  • Interestingly, people who look at it in its own right with little knowledge of what it does, just like it! It’s tactile and it looks good…
    Tim Collings, Operations Director, Troika Systems Ltd
  • To create such a consistent quality finish in chrome was an amazing achievement and the prototypes really gave our stand the wow factor.
    James Clark, Group Commercial Director, The Airdri Group
  • I can’t recommend Tim and his team highly enough. We ended up with a design which can be produced and assembled quickly, efficiently and reliably, in volumes that make sense
    Simon Leggett, Director, Olivewood Technology
  • Kirintec were thrilled with Plunketts. They made a complex process simple and we were just amazed at the lead times achieved. Plus, every single deadline was met without any drama.
    Penny While, Marketing Director, Kirintec
  • Plunkett Associates truly offer a complete turnkey solution with Speed, Effectiveness and Precision.
    David Harden, Director, Enica Ltd
  • Thanks to Plunkett Associates flexible, bespoke and cost effective service I was able to produce the objects that I had originally had in mind.
    Simon Ryder, Artist
  • Plunkett Associates have a fantastic supply chain, work with all sorts of production processes and will always do their utmost to solve a problem.
    Naim Audio
  • We always know exactly what we’re getting and we know we won’t be let down on quality, price or lead times.
    Mark Williams, Research and Development Director, Johnson Safety Products
  • "With their simple to understand language, willingness to go the extra mile and approachability, Plunkett Associates were a great partner for our company. We couldn’t be happier with the results of our project. (A working prototype that they got right first time, by the way). Thank you!"
    Carolina Ballon-Forrester, Director, Kittyrama Ltd
  • “We use Plunkett Associates because we want someone we can trust, that knows what they’re talking about, has all the contacts, will provide reliable advice and feedback and will get the right result for us.”
    Jim Copestick. Design Manager, Thorlux Lighting
  • “Accuracy, finish and delivery all first class.”
    Andrew Peters, JMDA Ltd
  • “We were really surprised at how quickly they turned round such a high quality prototype and the parts certainly proved their worth. They were of high enough quality to provide a fantastic visual representation and to undergo rigorous testing."
    Stuart Wilson, Design Director, TRT Lighting
  • "Tim's experience, expertise and supplier base have been fundamental to us getting this project off the ground."
    Sam Pearce, Jelly Products Ltd
  • Plunkett associates always find a solution. Whatever we need to prototype, they have a great grasp on the technologies available, costs and lead-times so we get the right solution tailored to the project needs. Have always delivered and never let us down.
    Naim Audio

Get in Touch with us for your Prototyping, Machining and Tooling & Moulding requirements…