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While large concerns are strategically focusing on networked Industry 4.0, many mid-sized companies are worried about the costs involved and are changing their workflows. They’re well aware of the advantages of digitalization, but aren’t so sure how to go about it. To win over this target group, solution providers such as Universal Robots are proposing a step-by-step strategy . The example of Hofmann Glastechnik , a company with a staff of 20, proves that results can also be rapidly achieved by following this strategy: Productivity rose by 50%, and the initial investments paid off after just six months.

At Hofmann, a shortage of skilled labor was the problem – the workforce needed to be deployed as efficiently and systematically as possible. Relatively easy to automate pick-and-place tasks were therefore the first tasks to be taken over by two robot arms from Universal Robots. Because that worked well and intuitively – the employees can teach the arms new movements simply by guiding them from point to point – a third robot arm soon followed, to perform the more complex task of machine tending.

In fact, small and mid-sized manufacturing companies are currently benefiting from more and more suppliers offering modular solutions at shop floor level that can be combined and added to on a modular basis. This, in turn, is down to the fact that large companies are increasingly having to make their production operations more flexible: for small and very small lot sizes, as well as for customized products. Even the process industry entitled its special exhibition at Hannover Messe 2018 “ The Age of Modular Production ”.