Could robots be a way to overcome the current challenges in the chemical industry?
The chemical industry has recently undergone a string of seismic changes. These have required companies to reimagine their operations to keep up.
Should your company choose robotic automation to help you stay ahead?
There are various reasons that robots are a good option for you to consider.
The Challenges for Companies in the Chemical Industry
Over the last decade, the global landscape for chemical companies has changed significantly.
According to a recent McKinsey report, various factors have come together to make the chemical industry more complex to navigate. Traditionally, the chemical industry has outperformed other industries in terms of growth. However, in the past few years, growth in the chemical industry has declined.
Global moves to curb climate change, for example, have led to more regulation across the industry. Increased competition from international competitors and disrupted supply chains have kicked many companies out of complacency. And that’s not to mention the huge impacts of the 2020 global pandemic on the industry!
Many companies now realize that they need to make changes to their operations.
The chemical industry has traditionally been a slow adopter of new technologies. However, having a “wait and see” approach is no longer a viable option.
As the world continues to move towards more digital and technological operations, now is the time to explore the potential benefits of advanced technology.
Using Robots as a Tool for Increased Flexibility
When times are difficult, some companies choose to play it safe. They cut spending to new projects and wait until the market “stabilizes.”
It seems unlikely that the chemical market will stabilize any time soon, if ever.
A better approach is to become more flexible in your operations. Proactively look for ways that you can increase your agility so that you can respond quickly and effectively to further changes in the industry.
Robots are an excellent tool for increasing the flexibility of your operations.
With the right programming tool, robots can be quickly and easily reprogrammed, allowing you to update your processes to respond to such changes.
As Nigel Platt from ABB’s UK robotics business explains, the flexibility that robots provide also contributes to improving your company’s sustainability. This makes them a good option for chemical companies looking to excel under those new regulations.
7 Clear Reasons to Use Robotics in Chemical Industry
Here are 7 reasons that robots are a great option for applications in the chemical industry:
1. Operate in Dangerous Areas
A clear benefit to using robots for some tasks is the reduced danger to human workers. This is particularly advantageous in the chemical industry where various tasks have significant risk.
Robots can also help to reduce the situations where people need to put on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which can save time and improve task efficiency.
2. Improve Consistency
One of the major reasons to use robots is that they improve the consistency of your tasks. Humans are inherently inconsistent when we work but a robot will always perform the same task in the same way.
Consistency is vital in the chemical industry for tasks like measurement, chemical dispensing, and testing.
3. Handle Toxic Materials
Unlike humans, robots can easily handle toxic materials and chemicals. As long as you have protected the robot itself, you will have a safe operation that includes almost no risk to people.
An example of such protection for robots is the sleeving that you can add to any robot that handles paint and other flammable liquids.
4. Improve Task Productivity
Some tasks in the chemical industry are inefficient simply because they are carried out by humans. The additional safety steps, for example, add extra time but don’t add value to the task. Even so, those steps are necessary to keep people safe.
Robots can improve productivity in a multitude of ways. Over time, you can continuously improve the efficiency of your robotic task in small ways, which adds up to big improvements in the long term.
5. Reduce Wastage and Rework
There has recently been a huge drive towards more sustainability in the chemical industry. Reducing wastage is one way that companies can improve sustainability in both the short and long term.
Robots can reduce wastage by allowing you to consistently optimize your processes. Robots also reduce errors, which means less rework and less wastage.
6. Cleanroom working
Cleanroom environments can be a challenge as it’s hard to remove the contamination that comes into them from outside sources. Robot models that are suitable for cleanrooms do not cause contamination themselves.
Unlike humans, a robot that always operates in a clean room also won’t pick up contaminants from outside, which can reduce the contamination significantly.
7. Reduce Downtime
A great benefit of using robots is that they reduce downtime. A robot doesn’t require breaks which means that they are well suited to tasks that need to be run continuously.
It’s important to pick the right programming interface if you are looking to reduce downtime with your robot. You can find out more in our article 10 Excellent Ways to Save Time With Offline Programming
How to Start Using Robots in Your Chemical Company
What do you need to do to get started using robots in your company?
One good way to “dip your toe” into robotics is to start by developing your application within a robot simulator, like RoboDK.
You can use the tool to build a simulation of your application. This can help you to quickly determine whether a robot will be suitable for that application and which robot will work best.
You can download a free trial copy of RoboDK on our download page.