If you're considering robotic deburring, finishing or other robotic abrasive operations, you'll likely need to work with a system integrator.

If you're considering robotic deburring, finishing or other robotic abrasive operations, you'll likely need to work with a system integrator. Since the integrator you select will be tasked with automating your existing process—including robot selection, programming and training—they will become a critical partner for the future of your business. Here are a few questions to keep in mind when considering an integrator to automate your material removal processes. Remember, this is a partnership that requires clear communication and ownership from both sides.

Have they automated a similar process in the past?

Past success is often the biggest indicator of future success. Look for a system integrator who has successfully automated a process similar to yours. For instance, if you're automating your deburring process, ask potential integrators if they have experience with robotic deburring.

Are they willing to understand your current process and improve it with automation?

To automate an abrasive process, it's essential that a system integrator understands how it’s currently done manually. It’s important for an integrator to learn from your current process in order to improve it through automation. Simply duplicating the manual process may be a missed opportunity.

Are they willing to come to your facility?

Automation is a significant investment, and you may only get one shot at a successful integration. Make sure your system integrator takes this investment as seriously as you do. On-site visits are crucial to a successful integration.

Do they seem overambitious?

Ambition is good. Overambition can be a red flag. Find an integrator with a realistic attitude and a focused mission. Concentrate on small wins—you won’t be able to automate every process in your shop at once. A system integrator who proposes complete automation may lack the experience and focus you're looking for.

What is the estimated timeline for project completion?

An experienced system integrator should be able to give you a project timeline within a reasonable window after visiting your facility, based on the complexity of your process. Inability to offer a time estimate could be a sign of inexperience or a lack of knowledge about your process needs.

Are your contract and payment terms clear?

A typical contract with a robotic system integrator will include the project timeframe, testing and implementation, as well as warranty and service details for the machine and the robotic abrasive process. It’s up to you to negotiate a contract you’re comfortable with.

Do they offer training and support after installation?

Getting a robotic cell installed and running at your facility is only part of the service a system integrator should offer. They should also allow you to customize your after-sale support needs, including training your staff and performing maintenance on the robot.

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Previously Featured on 3M Abrasives.

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