Robot Called In Sick

The cost of avoidance

“The thing about a robot is that it doesn’t call in sick.”

I’ve heard this claim made over and over. So have you. The only problem is that it’s not exactly true.

Without service, a robot will malfunction as certainly as any other precision machine — yet there are many expensive industrial robots operating in plants where service is not provided at any interval, much less within the time frame recommended by the manufacturer.

This came up during a recent visit to a plant where I was called in to assess the noise the robot was making in J1 of a Fanuc 710. My first question was, “When was the last PM?”

The answer was surprising, given that the facility had eight robots. It turns out they had never serviced any of the robots in their facility. The cost of this oversight is well over $16,000.
Fanuc recommends service at 11,520 hours for 410 and 710 models. The 100/200 models require service at or before 7,860 hours. I have seen aggressive programming really stress an axis like J5/6 to the point that I felt the need for even more frequency.

When your grease leaves the bath with the rancid odor and consistency of a watery creosote, you have to agree it may have lost all its lubricating qualities. I have seen this occur in as little as 9,000 hours on 710s.


This is not the only situation that requires a more frequent look at the lubricant of your drive mechanism. In some instances operations that required wash down have introduced high pressure water through the seals, creating an emulsification that when exiting the grease bath had the color of milk creme instead of its natural “butterscotch” coloration. In areas of high temperature change, condensation can reduce lubricating qualities.

All operations are different and need to be assessed individually for a true indication of a safe lubricant replacement strategy.

Given that the average cost of service is about $2,500 every other year or so, it seems an easy decision to protect service life.

The Fanuc 710s I mentioned earlier? With proper service, they are performing elsewhere in excess of 15 years.When not serviced, the joint could fail in as little as 7 years and need replacement at a cost of about $24,000. Even worse, a 710 top loader might need to be replaced at a cost of about $108,000.


The photo above is an example of a side mount carriage bearing which will have to be replaced at a cost of a little over $5,000 with parts available in 4 weeks. This is the least amount a repair due to lubrication issues is going to cost a facility.

In light of these costly but necessary repairs, the plant I mentioned in this post has requested a quote for annual service on all their units.

To extend the life of your valuable asset, it’s worth considering these questions:

  • How long can your robot be down before the bottom line is impacted?

  • How long has it been since your last robot service? Can you afford to wait?

  • Do you have run hours logged to see when you are getting close?

  • Is the questionable grease being reviewed for determining an safe replacement frequency?

  • Who does your service?

If you are in doubt, or have questions about service, contact us for more about how to assess your service schedule recommendations.

Contact Us

Iso Robotics, Inc.

1066 Grand Oaks Dr

Bessemer, AL 35022

(205) 217-3173

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Iso Robotics, Inc.

3033 Old Stone Dr,

Birmingham, AL 35242