Your Company Needs to Adopt Manufacturing Automation

Robotics and Manufacturing Automation

We live in a fast-paced world of increasing demand, which makes automation important for manufacturers to adopt into their practices. But deciding to use automation can be a tough decision—after all, it’s a significant investment and requires appropriate planning and strategy.

The benefits of employing robotics and manufacturing automation processes are centered around capacity, efficiency, and integration—benefits that impact both the business operations and the production side of your organization. With a proper vision and coordination across your organization, the investment in automating your manufacturing processes can yield high returns in a short amount of time.

In this article, we’ll go over how manufacturing automation can improve the working conditions for your employees, improve their job satisfaction , optimize equipment capacities, and increase the overall productivity of your company.

What Is Manufacturing Automation?

Manufacturing automation refers to automated equipment used in manufacturing facilities and environments. This equipment can perform with little-to-no human assistance, which can increase efficiency, product quality, and effectiveness. These machines can be used to produce virtually any product, including (but not limited to):

  • Vehicles

  • Communications equipment

  • Food and beverages

  • Consumer goods

  • Robotics

  • Pharmaceutical

  • Medical equipment

  • Sensors and controllers

  • Scientific instruments

  • Packaging materials

What Does Factory Automation Entail?

You can assure your workers that automation will not replace jobs for the sake of paying less wages—manufacturing automation is meant to fulfill roles that are dangerous, hazardous, or boring to humans. Some automated machines may even help make factory floor workers’ jobs easier. Automation and robotics will help you keep pace with your competition, grow your business, maintain your workforce and manage fluctuations.

Robotic Automation in Manufacturing

Factory automation usually entails a group of robotic machines working in a production line to create an end product. Each of these robotic machines are specifically designed to complete their task, which may entail:

  • Welding

  • Assembling

  • Packaging

  • Handling dangerous materials

Business Operations Automation

Unlike the other forms of automation mentioned above, business operations automation refers to organizational processes of a business, usually relating to office work. This form of automation helps leadership teams streamline onboarding processes and more easily purchase materials.

What Are Manufacturing Automation Systems?

Manufacturing automation systems are the components of an automated workforce. Every system requires two individual parts to operate properly: the robotics hardware and the automation software.

Robotics Hardware

The robotics hardware is the machinery that gets the job done. These machines can be operated completely by automated software (which we’ll talk about next), or they could be controlled by floor workers. These machines are usually specifically designed to do what workers can’t do, like lifting heavy objects or producing large outputs in less time.

Not all robotics hardware are mechanical instruments. Some devices use scanning to inspect and measure certain aspects of a task.

These are some examples of robotics hardware you might see on a factory floor:

Automation Software

Automation software is the programming that tells the robots what to do. The software is the brain of any automation process, as it’s what programs the robots’ tasks and coordinates how each robot works with one another.

Some examples of automation software include:

Types of Automation Systems

Today, software and robotic hardware are usually combined into three types of automation systems, each of which serves a specific purpose:

  • Rigid/Fixed

    In fixed automation systems, the manufacturing process can only change if you physically change the machinery—sometimes, it can’t be changed at all. These systems are usually limited to a single product manufactured in high volumes, such as vehicles or computers.

  • Programmable

    Programmable automation systems allow adaptation and reordering of manufacturing processes, which lets assembly lines have a bit more customization for the final product. These programs are usually controlled by computer programs that can quickly change the output of the assembly line. This allows programmable automation systems to produce dozens or even thousands of different products.

  • Flexible

    Flexible automation systems work similarly to programmable systems in that production lines can change their output product with no loss of production time. Generally, flexible systems can produce a variety of products in medium-sized batches.

Why Is Automation Used in Manufacturing?

Automation is used in manufacturing to make factory work environments more efficient, safe, and scalable. These are incredibly important benefits to have, as companies will need to meet increasing demands for more goods and services at faster rates.

Efficient Production

A study by the McKinsey Foundation found that automation can increase labor productivity by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually on a global basis. with automation, production takes significantly less time to complete, since the machines won’t have to think to complete their tasks. Plus, machines can work around the clock, so you’ll never have to halt production for lunch breaks, covid sick leave or any other reason.

But efficiency isn’t all about saving time—automation takes human error out of the equation. One study found that 23 percent of unplanned downtime in factories was caused by human error. With no more human error, production will also be more accurate as the machines manage repetitive tasks.

Safer Workers

Some tasks become automated because of how hazardous they can be to employees. So, with automation, you can decrease the amount of workplace injuries and develop a safer working environment. Automation has significantly improved workplace injuries due to Excessive Repetitive Motion.

Scalable Operational Capabilities

Markets are always fluctuating, which means you sometimes need to adapt your production schedule to meet increased demand. With automation, you can easily scale your operations to meet those demands without burning out your employees or having them work extended hours and being paid overtime pay.

Future-Proofed Systems

Think of all the industrial revolutions throughout history. What was innovative in mechanical and mass productions decades ago is now the norm for more production facilities. The same is true for automation—if you wish to stay competitive with companies that have already switched to automated production systems, you’ll need to follow their lead.

Improved Job Opportunities

There is a misconception about worker displacement due to automation. Some feel their jobs are being taken over by robots that can work longer hours and commit less error.

Manufacturers are not bringing in automation and robots to replace employees. The truth is, they are bringing in automation and robots because they don’t have enough employees. In Utah, the unemployment rate for the manufacturing industry is very low. Hiring and retaining employees in facilities is an issue that manufacturing automation can help resolve, especially for jobs that are boring, repetitive, dirty, and less desirable.

Automation can allow a factory to scale efficiencies for the mundane, and open opportunities for skilled workers to do higher-level tasks. This shift in operations is also a shift in the management of manufacturing, moving you closer to a future-proofed and Industry 4.0 state.

How Do You Implement Automation in Manufacturing Environments?

Every factory setting is different. Your floor workers’ needs are unique and you need to find automated services that meet those needs. To properly integrate those automated services into your manufacturing processes, take these four steps:

1. Get Consultation for Your Automation Needs

Implementing automation into your manufacturing processes usually has a very expensive starting cost. While that large cost is usually countered with saved time and money in the long run, that isn’t the case if your automated machines don’t improve efficiency.

  • Do you have dull, dirty and dangerous tasks where there is high turnover because employees don’t like the work?

  • Do you have production bottlenecks?
  • Do you have a high volume of rework or quality defects?
  • Are your customers requiring part traceability and date/lot code verification?
  • Do you have jobs or tasks that require high precision and dexterity?
  • Do you have tasks that are repetitive?
  • Do you have difficulty in finding skilled workers?
  • Would automation give the company a competitive advantage?

  • Is there a problem that automation might help solve?
  • Can you build a business case around automation like you could for other investments?

If you answer yes to any of those questions, then it’s time to consider implementing automation into your company. You should work with a trusted and experienced consultation company to find out where your production line could improve. This will help you find out how to close performance bottlenecks, ensuring you get a worthwhile return on your investment.

2. Start Small for a Big Win

Unsure if automation is right for you? Try starting small, pick a process or task that consistently gives your production line issues or you have a hard time staffing. After one success, you can continue to expand your automation program throughout your operation.

3. Implement the Automation

Implementing automated tools onto your manufacturing floor is much more complicated than plugging in new machines. Once you’ve determined the automated tools you will use, you have to plan how they will incorporate into your production line. That means figuring out how they physically fit into your floor space, how your workers will interact with the machinery, and so on.

Then comes the installation of the machinery. Your workers may take some time to get used to their new floor partners. To help them, you should optimize those processes to ensure your employees and new automated machinery work together seamlessly. And if any problems arise, don’t panic—it doesn’t mean your machines don’t work, they’ll just require some troubleshooting.

4. Train on Automation Where Needed

Train employees who will work directly with the machines—proper training is the best way to avoid workplace accidents and ensure all operations run smoothly. If some floor workers’ jobs are made significantly easier by your automation efforts, then you may choose to shift those employees to higher-level duties within your company. This can encourage workers to view automation as an opportunity for greater success instead of as a threat to their job security.

So Why Invest Now?
To realize the benefits now! Immediate benefits could include:

  • Reducing labor utilization costs associated with hiring, overtime, and training
  • Reducing the cost of scrap and rework associated with errors, subsequent processes and customer rate of return
  • Reducing unpredictable production capacity, machine uptime and capacity utilization
  • Improving cycle times and operator staffing

How Automation Helps Manufacturing

Automation helps manufacturers scale their operations, increase efficiency, put their workers out of harm’s way, and keep track of their inventory. With the combination of robotic hardware, automation software, and data-recording equipment, manufacturers can perform their jobs with greater accuracy than ever before.

Take Your Next Steps Towards Marketing Automation

How do you get started with planning your transition to automated manufacturing? When you’re ready to make the switch, here’s what you need to do:

1. Evaluate the Potential Automation Needs in Your Organization

Where are you falling behind in your production efforts? Where do the most workplace injuries occur? Where do the most mistakes happen? If these questions make you think of any of your production line processes, those should be your top priorities for automation.

And remember, automation isn’t all about production—there may be processes in your clerical work that could improve with automation.

2. Identify What Needs to Be Prepared before Implementing Automation

You may want to start by giving clear definitions of the processes within your company. For example, if you haven’t labeled all of the tasks that make up your production line, doing so will help you know where you need automation in the future—“material welding” is much clearer than “Jim’s job.”

3. Plan for Growth

There’s no need to automate every part of your manufacturing process all at once. Doing so would be a huge investment that may not pay off. Start small with an automated machine that would be beneficial to a large number of your employees.

This way, your employees will become more comfortable working with automated machinery. As they become used to the machines and prove to work well with them, then you can bring in more automation.

4. Partner with an Expert in Automation Implementation

You don’t have to traverse into the world of automation alone. iMpact Utah is an expert at helping companies close their performance gaps. We are committed to getting all of our clients to accelerate their revenue growth and continuous improvement.

When your company is ready to take its first steps towards manufacturing automation and improved outputs, we can help you make sure you’re prepared for those changes. We start with an Automation Gaps Assessment to give you an exact idea of how your company could improve with automated services.

Free Automation Gap Assessment

To learn more about how automation could benefit your business, contact iMpact Utah. We offer a free automation gap assessment to give your business a road map to better success.

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