Modelling time efficiency of cobot-supported kit preparation
Journal article, 2019
Kitting – meaning to supply assembly with components in pre-sorted kits – is widely seen as beneficial for assembly quality and efficiency when there is a multitude of component variants. However, the process by which kits are prepared – the kit preparation – is labour intensive, and kit errors are problematic at assembly processes. The use of robotics to support kit preparation has received some attention by researchers, but literature is lacking with respect to how collaborative robots – cobots – can support kit preparation activities. The purpose of this paper is to identify the potential of a cobot to support time-efficient batch preparation of kits. To address the purpose, the paper presents a mathematical model for estimation of the cycle time associated with cobot-supported kit preparation. The model is applied in a numerical example with experimental data from laboratory experiments, and cobot-supported kit preparation is compared with manual kit preparation. The findings suggest that cobot-supported kit preparation is beneficial with diverse kits and smaller components quantities per SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) and provides less variability of the outcome, when compared to manual kit preparation. The paper reveals several insights about cobot-supported kit preparation that can be valuable for both academics and practitioners. The model developed can be used by practitioners to assess the potential of cobots to support kit-batch preparation in association with assembly, spare parts, repair and maintenance, or business to business industry.