Automation 101: A Guide to Choosing the Right Solution

Peer Robotics
7 min readApr 26, 2023


With increasing government initiatives and global disruptions driving reshoring to Make in America, manufacturers must take the right steps to ensure leaner, flexible processes. Automation is the need of the hour, and it is a need that is further heightened in the wake of growing challenges with labor shortages and employee retention in the manufacturing industry. However, it can be overwhelming to know where to start when choosing the right automation solution for your company — especially if you’re a small business owner and bombarded with options that do not consider affordability, scalability, and flexibility.

With the right guidance, you can make an informed decision that will benefit your manufacturing operations in the long run. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you understand some key factors to consider while weighing automation solutions and choosing the best one to suit your specific requirements. This article aims to help you better understand how to choose and leverage the right automation technology to optimize your business processes and ultimately, boost your bottom line.

Step 1: Identify Your Business Needs & Goals

Before you even start looking at automation solutions, it’s important to determine your business’s specific requirements for automation. Here, you need to identify what application(s) are the most manual or labor-intensive, as well as the non-value-added activities in your business operations. These are the operations that typically end up accounting for a good chunk of operational costs without adding any direct value to the products or services offered by the company. Prioritizing the automation of these processes adds the most value to your business on multiple levels: in addition to driving efficiency by installing technology to handle dull, dirty, dangerous, and/or difficult tasks, your employees will be freed up to work where they can creatively apply human ingenuity. They can also be upskilled to manage the automation technology themselves, for example, to become robot programmers. In fact, with an increasing number of the workforce interested in technology, using advanced automation tools such as collaborative robots can go a long way in attracting and retaining the right employees, and showcasing that you are an employer creating value-added work environments.

Once you have identified the right applications to automate, it’s important to understand what the operational costs for each are of these, and identify other key parameters to assess whether the automation method ticks the right boxes. This will help in formalizing expectations and KPIs when you go out to look for solutions.

It’s important to establish the processes you think could benefit from automation, assess the current challenges you face, and define the goals you wish to achieve. This way, you have the foundational information to guide the subsequent steps. Our Customer Success team at Peer Robotics, for example, is dedicated to crafting a solution that fits your unique requirements and can even be invited to your facility to help you identify applications to automate effectively.

Step 2: Do Your Research

Now that you’ve established exactly what your needs and goals are, it’s time to do some research and figure out what your options are. Technology is constantly advancing, so chances are, you’ll come across new products loaded with features. Since you have already figured out your automation needs, however, you’ll be able to assess whether these automation tools and features will truly make a difference for your business goals.

Of course, the Internet is the most obvious and convenient place to begin. But beyond this, you can also connect with local trade associations that have resources available to help manufacturers make informed decisions. For example, Connecticut alone is home to multiple industry groups, including ManufactureCT, AdvanceCT, and Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT). Other notable manufacturing associations include the Association for Advancing Automation (A3) and Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT).

Automation companies such as Peer, or some of our partners including PeakLogix, Infinity Robotics, Alstrut, and Trilogy Nextgen, also conduct workshops and can help you in assessing different automation solutions to find the best fit for your needs.

Step 3: Assess Total Cost of Ownership

Often, businesses big and small are weary of investing in automation and robotics solutions because of a conventional approach to calculating Return on Investment (ROI), where they purely compare the invested amount versus the return. However, this is a method that overlooks the multitude of other tangible and intangible benefits of an automation solution.

For example, if you are exploring a robotic solution, you may wonder whether to choose a traditional industrial robot or go with more future-forward collaborative robots (cobots). Industrial robots often seem inexpensive at first glance. However, there are various hidden costs associated with them, and the hardware costs often make up just 30% of the total expenditure. Additional expenses include additional safety fencing since they are dangerous for people to be around, hiring external robot programmers since industrial robots need the expertise to handle, and a large amount of valuable shop floor space since they are huge and cannot share the same physical space as humans. Plus, they can take weeks — if not months — to set up, which means large periods of downtime.

With traditional robots, the surface cost is usually just the tip of the iceberg

In a case where you need a more flexible, space-saving, and safe solution, therefore, a cobot may suit your business needs more effectively. They are compact, loaded with safety features to make them safely interact with humans, and can be easily tasked and even re-tasked — even with individuals with no prior robotic experience. All of Peer’s collaborative autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), for example, can even learn from humans in real time. A simple application can be up and running in a day, and more custom solutions take an average of just 2–6 weeks. Together, this brings down integration costs by 50–60%. And even if you are unsure of making a permanent investment right away, companies like Peer Robotics and Universal Robots offer Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) so you can essentially lease the technology for a shorter period of time to evaluate its impact on your organization before purchasing a robot.

Step 4: Partner with the Right Automation Solution Provider

That’s right — the key word here is “partner.” The involvement of many automation solution providers ends once the sale is made, leaving you to fend for yourself to figure out installations, monitoring and assessing, and reconfiguring if needed. Unless it’s a one-size-fits-all type of situation — or you have in-house expertise — it’s vital to choose a solution provider who actively collaborates across the entire process. At Peer Robotics, for example, our team starts by working closely with your business to understand your processes, needs, and goals. We then work closely with our integrator and end customer to make sure the robot deployment process is carried out as seamlessly as possible. Lastly, we continue to closely monitor the solution following installation to make sure that it meets or even exceeds expectations for your initial requirements and vision for the project.

The right partner will also carefully develop solutions that are as compatible as possible with your existing infrastructure. This makes for more seamless integration and implementation, reducing costs while also maximizing the impact of your automation solution. While exploring automation providers, therefore, identify those with a track record of providing scalable, cost-effective solutions for small businesses. This way, you have a reliable, trustworthy partner with you throughout the implementation process.

Step 5: Monitor & Optimize Your Automation Solution

You may think the process is over after implementing your automation solution, but we say it’s crucial to monitor and optimize its performance continually. Usually, KPIs to measure automation success revolve around productivity. However, Ben Armstrong and Julie Shah, co-leaders of MIT’s Work of the Future Initiative, advocate for also focusing on flexibility to achieve what they term “positive-sum automation”. After all, the primary purpose of any automation solution is enhanced productivity, but how flexible the solution is, directly impacts a manufacturer’s ability to adapt to ever-changing market conditions.

Measuring the success of an automation solution based on its impact on human teams is considered the most vital KPI

Armstrong and Shah suggest metrics that measure the automation solution at three levels: machine, system, and team. At the basic machine level, one considers practical flexibility, such as how long the solution needs to pick up a new task in contrast to a human. At the system level, you may look at the costs of reprogramming your robot or automation solution to carry out a new task. Measuring the third level, i.e. the success of human teams, is considered the most important. It can include looking at whether the solution makes people better at their work, frees them up for more creative, meaningful tasks, or even enables them to do things that perhaps they could not have managed otherwise.

While there’s no single formula or set of metrics to measure success, it’s important to choose performance indicators across these three levels to make sure your automation solution is both productive and flexible. This way, you are geared toward long-term success.


Implementing an automation solution can be a daunting process, especially considering the rapid rate at which technology is constantly evolving. This article strives to serve as a guide to help you navigate your automation implementation journey successfully. By identifying your business needs and goals, doing thorough research, assessing the total cost of ownership, and choosing the right automation partner, you can achieve a successful automation project that improves efficiency and minimizes costs but also enables the flexibility you need to quickly adapt to changing market conditions. Also, remember that automation is not a one-time project — rather, it is a continuous

process that requires ongoing monitoring and improvement, and it’s vital to choose the right parameters to measure success.