Implement Manufacturing Automation Correctly and Improve Your Productivity
Are you looking to reduce costs or remove bottlenecks from your manufacturing? Manufacturing automation could be part of the solution. It is estimated that automating different tasks can raise your productivity growth by 1.4% annually (McKinsey Institute). From increasing capacity to reducing costs, manufacturing automation can take your business to the next level, if executed correctly.
Advancements in technology are improving methods of automating manufacturing. However, you shouldn’t automate everything just because you can – automate where it makes sense. We are a business consulting agency with experience optimizing manufacturing processes, so we know the sweet spot when it comes to choosing what makes sense to automate. Let’s give you some direction, starting with breaking down factory automation into key steps.
How is Automation Used in Manufacturing?
Automation should only be used when there is an opportunity for a return on your investments. Process engineers used to believe the best practice was to automate everything. The problem is that fully automating leads to unmanageable expenses.
Manufacturing automation can be used in alignment with the Lean Methodology. Your goal when setting up your facility is to create production flow. If you recognize a repeatable process that does not need human intervention, consider automating. In this sense, manufacturing automation is used sparingly to address constraints and bottlenecks.
There are three levels of manufacturing automation, as you will see in the next section. In order to get the most value, you must choose the right level of automation complexity. You must also align your automation strategy with your business strategy. Start by defining your goals for manufacturing output, like increasing productivity or reducing operating costs. Then,
- Identify where there is an opportunity for automation
- Research automation options for the identified task
- Discuss the financial justifications
- Design the automation process
- Prototype to see if it works
- Adjust the process based on results
- Implement your plan
- Monitor the automation process
Simplify, then automate! Making the right decisions when automating can be difficult and time-consuming. Automating your manufacturing can also be a large investment. We specialize in simplifying production processes, pinpointing opportunities for manufacturing automation solutions, and helping implement them for businesses. Once implemented, we monitor the change for improvements. We can help you save time and money on developing your automation strategy.
What are the Types of Automation:
Automation is great for certain tasks on the production floor, but manufacturing automation can take many different forms. It can be separated into three main categories:
1. Fixed Automation
Fixed manufacturing automation is when an individual machine is set to complete a specific task or product. The benefit of fixed automation is the ability to produce large quantities quickly because many operations are joined together by one machine. One example is an assembly line. The downsides to manufacturing automation are that you need to shut down lines to switch the process, once in place, and there is a high initial investment to design and engineer the proper machinery. For smaller volumes or changing products, programmable automation is usually the better option.
2. Programmable Automation
With programmable manufacturing automation, a program runs a production system. As a result, your equipment can be programmed to run different sequences and produce multiple types of parts. Examples of programmable automation are industrial robots and programmable machining tools. The benefit of programmable automation is that you have the capacity to change tasks. It is best for batch production. The downside is that downtime is required for the changeovers, which costs you both time and money. Flexible automation was created in response, reducing the downtime required for programmable automation.
3. Flexible Automation
Flexible automation is a lot like programmable automation but changeovers can be performed automatically. Production is controlled by a central computing system or network, allowing you to remotely control and monitor your equipment. The benefits of flexible automation are that your system can respond to changes quickly and produce different product types simultaneously. In this sense, it is great for batch production. However, because flexible automation requires a connected network, you may be limited by your equipment or need additional devices and tools to make changeovers automatic.
What are the Benefits to Manufacturing Automation?
Manufacturing automation comes down to recognizing an opportunity to improve a process, automating it with technology, and getting a return on your investment. If done correctly, factory automation can increase flow, improve workplace safety, and create consistency in your output while removing non-value-adding work. Automation drives precision, consistency, and greater efficiency.
Because of the benefits and recent improvements in technology, manufacturing automation has become a necessary step in elevating production. Let’s further explore the potential benefits that give you an advantage over competitors:
- Lower Operating Costs
Manufacturing automation may require a significant initial investment but, as an investment, it can bring great value in the long run. For example, one machine can reduce labor input. Your efficiency increases and non-value-adding work is removed.
- Increase Productivity
Machines can work around the clock without diminishing performance. They can maintain the same speed, meaning your production process runs longer and more efficiently. Automation reduces downtime and increases output.
- Better Product Quality
Generally, machines can perform tasks with greater accuracy than employees. They also are more consistent, leading to lower defect rates.
- More Predictability
Factory automation sometimes involves adding sensors to your process. The real-time data this provides can help you more accurately predict lead times and timelines for customers. Monitoring data also lets you track equipment performance and identify when maintenance is needed.
- Improve Workplace Safety
Finally, factory automation can remove workers from dangerous processes or materials, preventing injury.
If you don’t know where to start, begin with Lean methodology. By simplifying complex processes within production, problem areas will become more apparent. Need help identifying where automation would be profitable, or where your process problems are? We can help.
We could talk about manufacturing automation all day long, and there are great benefits to it. There are opportunities for automation in all aspects of your business. For example, you can read about sales automation here.
We Can Help
As a business consulting agency skilled in automating business processes, we have experience identifying potential improvements and ROIs. Making the decision to automate your manufacturing is complex and implementing can be expensive. We don’t automate for automation’s sake.
We automate where there is a return on investment. How? We simplify your processes so that the manufacturing automation opportunities become clear. Let us help you save time and money while increasing your productivity.