Home » Why Low-Volume Manufacturers are Adopting Flexible Automation

Why Low-Volume Manufacturers are Adopting Flexible Automation

Low-volume manufacturer often faces production-line challenges related to  ergonomics, work organization, and quality. However, HMLV companies have seen improvement and economic growth after implementing Flexible automation. Nowadays, low volume production companies relying on the latest HRC (Human-Robot Collaboration) technologies and new Models of Automation to make their processes flexible, and to manufacture a variety of products while maintaining high-efficiency levels.

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The Availability of Human-Robot Collaboration Technologies

The Human-Robot Collaboration industry is building suitable technologies specialized in each Low-Volume manufacturing niche. Due to its remarkable advances, the collaborative robot industry, also called the Cobot industry, is expected to grow 21.6 % in revenue by the end of this year, according to Reportlinker.

Cobots are now the center of flexible automation for High Mixed Low Volume production companies.These new robots enable quick set-up and redeployment on fast-changing and specific tasks. When a Low volume manufacturer changes procedures for the production of different SKUs within their lines, they no longer rely strictly on human labor. The majority of the collaborative robots in the market today are flexible enough to adapt to a variety of tasks, from automated assembly, pick-and-place, to material handling. Moreover, the Collaborative Robots’ level of accuracy in performing detailed tasks has raised the productivity and quality indicators in the companies that use them correctly.

The rising need for flexible automation has encouraged big technological companies to develop their own Collaborative robots. The German-recognized company, Bosch, holds one of the best-selling Cobots in the current market, with the development of their APAS robot.

Meanwhile, the big manufacturing expert, FANUC, has developed a series of robots specialized in Low Volume production necessities; with their CR 4ia Series. At the same time, the recognized multinational corporation ABB has its own Low volume prototype robot, launched under the name of YuMi.

New Software development

New software integration allows the quick re-configuration of line productions and procedures that enable flexible automated manufacturing. One of the main problems that High mixed Low volume manufacturers faced when trying to implement automation in their production lines, was the reprogramming of the robots. However, the Lead-Through programming software installed in many new Cobots fixed the programming issue.

Lead-Through programming technology allows the operator to hand-guide the robot to “teach it” a new task that it will record, code, and perform repeatedly until it finishes a desired batch. That way, a trained operator can demonstrate the task to a robot that can learn and repeat it.

These new programming methods make the deployment of automation work faster, optimizing production time. For example, this is the working method of the latest FANUC cobots, however, not all in the market work with lead-through technology.

Low Volume Manufacturing

Some Robots still work with offline software or teach pendants, but they also hold the ability to read a variety of programming languages such as JavaScript, and C++, including Google’s Blockly. This last characteristic makes Cobots easy to program by less experienced programmers and reduces the cost of outsourcing maintenance. That is the case with Bosch Rexroth’s ctrlX Store, which is offering a variety of pre-programmed applications for the deployment of advanced automation.

The need for ergonomic improvement and cost reductions.

The changing environment of High Mixed Low-Volume companies during day-to-day production can lead to product inconsistency, quality deficiencies, and increased waste generation. Flexible automation helps companies to create more ergonomic procedures and hold smaller staff.

Many Low-Volume production companies rely on manual labor entirely to perform complicated procedures during their production systems. Also, the highly mixed environment becomes more complicated and high in demand, and operational costs increase. This situation makes low-volume manufacturing less feasible than high-volume production companies.

Therefore, the competitiveness of these companies relies on their ability to quickly change their setups in their production lines. Collaborative robots and flexible automation are now seen as the enabler of high-quality products with a great return on investment.

At the same time, flexible automation has come to solve a main concern for all manufacturing companies; the ergonomics for monotonous tasks. Repetitive tasks (when performed by human labor) are one of the main causes of low-key performance indicators of productivity and health related issues.

Low productivity is an obstacle for all Lean manufacturing processes. Thus, both low-volume and high-volume companies are raising their interest in investing in automation technology including cobots and collaborative robots.

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However, there are numerous requirements that a manufacturer should meet before implementing flexible automation. According to research studies, the Low Volume manufacturer must have a strong level of organization and a well-trained staff. The employees need not only to understand the processes but also know how to manage automation troubleshooting. The automation process begins by knowing all operational and administrative steps of the organization, technical implications, and material flow.

Benefits of collaborative robots in Low Volume Manufacturing processes 

Companies that implement flexible automation prove the benefits of collaborative robots, especially in Low Volume manufacturing processes. These advantages include: 

Fast installation: cobots are programmed with user-friendly software, and manufacturers tend to provide free training for the equipment. Collaborative robots can be set up in a matter of minutes and start performing specific tasks. This versatility is due to their lightweight and space-saving characteristics. 

Quick programming: new intuitive programming and AI integrated into collaborative robots enable a more friendly setup for cobots and the extended use of popular programming languages (such as Java, C++, and HTML5) makes this task easier. 

Also Read: 5 Ways Artificial Intelligence Improves Business Processes

Industry Flexibility: collaborative robots easily adjust to different working environments due to their size and ergonomic design. 

Better human-robot integration: collaborative robots provide a safe solution for material handling, assembly, and testing operations due to their powerful collision and movement sensors, reducing hazardous activities around machinery in the workspace. 

Increased productivity: collaborative robots and flexible automation in general reduce deployment time and help decrease downtime in detailed tasks even in small batches, small production lines, and processes reliant on human labor. 


Now the answer to the question of Why Low-Volume Manufacturers are Adopting Flexible Automation is clear. The benefits associated with this recent technology are enumerable. Flexible automation increases productivity, reduces production costs, and can easily adjust to the fast-changing environment of this type of manufacturing. The development of collaborative robots technology enables quick programming, better human-robot integration, and the reduction of ergonomic issues related to repetitive tasks in the production lines of every High Mixed Low-Volume manufacturing company. That is why the Collaborative Robot (Cobot) industry is expected to keep growing its demand in this market in the following years.