8 ways to reduce cycle time with robots: Step-by-step guide

April 9, 2024
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What is cycle time and why does it matter?

Machine cycle time refers to the total time it takes to complete a process or produce an item. In manufacturing, it specifically measures the time between the start and end of a production run. 

In essence, the faster your cycle time, the quicker you can make and deliver products to customers.

Cycle time formula (how to calculate cycle time)

To calculate the cycle time, you need to understand the full end-to-end process. 

The cycle time formula is:

Cycle Time = End Time - Start Time

Where the start time is when an item first enters the process and the end time is when it exits the process.

Simple, right? For example, if a manufacturing process begins at 9 am and ends at 5 pm, the cycle time is 8 hours. Reducing this cycle time basically means optimizing your process to complete the work in less time. 

All things considered, a lower cycle time means higher productivity and efficiency. It allows you to increase throughput and get more work done in less time.

But we’ll get into the benefits in more detail below. 

Why is cycle time reduction so important?

Reducing cycle time is one of the absolute essentials for any manufacturing business to gain a competitive advantage. 

Think about it — the faster you can produce goods, the faster you can get them into customers’ hands. 

Still need a little more convincing? We’ll explain the most important benefits: 

  • Major cost slashing. By speeding up your production process, you’ll use less time, resources and money to make the same products. This means lower costs per unit and higher profit margins. With a quick cycle time, you can also reduce work-in-progress (WIP) inventory, freeing up more of your capital.
  • Quality shoots through the roof. When you can spot and fix errors faster, quality improves. Defects and waste are detected sooner, so you can take corrective action quickly before more resources are spent. You’ll also have more time to refine and optimize the production process.
  • It lets you become more adaptable. A short cycle time gives you more flexibility to adapt to changes in the market. You can shift production to different products to meet customer demand, seasonal trends or new opportunities. You’ll get new products to customers faster, gaining a competitive advantage.
  • Your customers will love it. Customers today expect speed. With a quick cycle time, you can deliver orders faster and more reliably. This results in happier customers who get what they want when they want it. Satisfied customers are also more likely to become repeat buyers and loyal advocates for your brand. 
  • Better innovation: Reduced cycle times free up resources and time for research and development. This allows companies to focus on innovation and bring new products to market faster.
  • The Earth will thank you: Shorter cycle times can lead to less waste and energy consumption, contributing to a smaller environmental footprint. 

Say yes to profits! Reducing cycle times has a direct impact on your bottom line. Faster production translates into increased output, leading to higher sales and ultimately, increased profits.

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8 ways robots can reduce cycle times

Still not buying into cycle time reduction? Allow us to help out by detailing 8 ways robots can give you a hand: 

1. Identify bottlenecks: The first step to faster cycle times

Pinpointing where your production process slows down is priority #1 for getting the most out of your robots.

What to do:

  • Analyze production data: Collect and examine metrics like throughput, wait times, and downtime for each stage of production.
  • Take a look at your workflow: Look for points where materials pile up, tasks take too long, or quality problems arise.

2. Match the right robot to the bottleneck

Choosing robots designed for the specific task will maximize efficiency and reduce your cycle time.

What to do:

  • Evaluate the bottleneck: Are the tasks repetitive pick-and-place operations, complex assembly, or something else? This will tell you the best type of robot (articulated, SCARA, collaborative, etc.).
  • Talk to the experts: Suppliers like Standard Bots provide guidance to find the perfect match between your needs and robot capabilities.

3. Create a detailed robotic integration plan

Outlining every step of the integration process reduces disruptions and helps you make a smooth transition to optimized production.

What to do:

  • Plan workspace changes: Assess space requirements, safety considerations, and any necessary changes to fixtures or conveyors.
  • Set a timeline: Create realistic deadlines for robot installation, testing, and full integration into the production line.

4. Program for efficiency and optimize through testing

Robots rock because they're precise and programmable. Harness this power to reduce cycle times.

What to do:

  • Optimize robot movements: Program paths for maximum speed and minimal wasted motion.
  • Conduct thorough testing: Simulate real-world scenarios and fine-tune performance for the fastest cycle times.

5. Integrate with your manufacturing execution system (MES)

Seamless communication between robots and your MES unlocks new levels of efficiency and data-driven optimization.

What to do:

  • Check compatibility: Make sure your robots and MES can exchange data seamlessly.
  • Use your MES for scheduling: Prioritize tasks, optimize robot workloads, and reduce idle times.

6. Monitor performance and make data-driven improvements

Constantly analyzing robot performance helps you find opportunities for further improvement and ensures a strong return on your investment.

What to do:

  • Install sensors: Equip robots and workstations with sensors to gather detailed data on cycle times, throughput, and error rates.
  • Analyze the data: Identify trends, potential bottlenecks, and areas for improvement.

7. Train your workforce for robot collaboration

A skilled and confident workforce is vital when robots join the production floor.  Get your team ready to thrive in this human-machine partnership.

What to do:

  • Provide comprehensive training: Cover robot basics, safety protocols, and how to troubleshoot common issues.
  • Build a collaborative mindset: Promote the idea of robots as tools that enhance, not replace, human work.

8. Predictive maintenance for maximum uptime

Harness the power of AI and machine learning to stay ahead of breakdowns and keep your robots running smoothly.

What to do:

  • Collect sensor data: Gather data on robot wear, temperature, vibration, and other important metrics.
  • Use AI algorithms intelligently: Analyze sensor data to predict potential failures before they occur.

Summing up

You now have 8 solid ways to reduce your cycle times with robots. 

With some strategic planning and the right technology investments, your business will be operating much more efficiently!

So, time to roll up your sleeves: Start prioritizing cycle time optimization today. You'll quickly start seeing the benefits in productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction. 

And, if that still doesn’t seem like enough, remember that at the end of the day those things all add up to nice, big profits!

Next steps

Time to really slash cycle times! RO1 by Standard Bots brings cutting-edge automation technology to manufacturing environments of every size at a price that's hard to beat.

Innovation that doesn’t strain your resources: Secure the functionality necessary for optimizing your manufacturing operations affordably. RO1 starts at half the price of similar offerings. 

  • Big productivity boost: With its 6-axis arm and 18 kg payload ability, RO1 sets new standards for efficiency and accuracy, enhancing the productivity of your operations.
  • Collaboration is the name of the game: Equipped with advanced safety protocols, RO1 fosters a cohesive working space for humans and machines to work together smoothly.
  • It gets better right along with you: Equipped with AI on par with GPT-4, RO1 continuously improves and adjusts in tandem with your team, guaranteeing enduring operational effectiveness and adaptability.
  • Perfect for manufacturing tasks: RO1 is specifically engineered to excel in crucial manufacturing processes such as assembling parts, handling machines, and packaging, elevating your shop floor's capabilities.

Our team is committed to supporting you every step of the way as you integrate RO1 into your operations, making sure you fully leverage your investment in RO1 automation. 

Experience the transformation with our 30-day no-risk trial offer!

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