This informative video will give you a brief overview of what we do at Granta Automation and how we manage our processes to ensure the success of your automation project.
This informative video will give you a brief overview of what we do at Granta Automation and how we manage our processes to ensure the success of your automation project.
This video of a Bag Palletising Robot from Granta will give you an idea of what Automated Bag Palletising looks like in action!
More information on our Robotic Palletising Systems is available here.
Find out more…
Every day in the UK there are millions of pallets being stacked with a wide variety of products. Estimates suggest that as much as 50-60% of this process is undertaken by hand. This is yet another reflection of how far behind the UK currently is in terms of adopting automation and robotics, and in many cases people are unaware of the current technologies available that could add tangible benefits to their business.
To help you get a clearer understanding, we have put together this article as an introduction to automated pallet stacking and the key things to consider if you are thinking about investing in automation.
What is palletising?
Palletising is the process of placing or stacking goods onto a pallet or pallets.
Over the years palletising has developed from being entirely reliant on manual labour, to the introduction of automated machinery to place products onto pallets in preparation for their despatch. Efficient palletising of products is an essential part of the supply chain as it ensures the production process is leaner and more efficient. Automated palletising systems can also be designed to include the dispensing of slip sheets onto the pallet, either in-between the various product layers, or on top of the finished load.
Automatic pallet feeding can also be included in a robotic palletising system. Automated pallet feeding works in tandem with the production to keep the production line running continuously.
What are the advantages of automated pallet stacking?
Typical payback calculation for an automated pallet stacking system
Click here to download our excel payback calculator with typical payback calculations, enter your full production details to see what the payback could be for you.
Risks of using automation and how to overcome them
Introducing automatic pallet stacking into your facility will dramatically improve the efficiency of your production line thanks to the many benefits it brings. In the vast majority of cases this can be felt with immediate effect, ensuring you see a tangible return on investment which enables you to recoup your outlay in a relatively short space of time.
Whilst there can be some initial challenges to overcome, this can be effectively managed by choosing a specialist automation company that will work with you to find a solution that matches your needs.
Find out more:
Quality control in a manufacturing environment is one of the most vital areas of the production process and its value can never be underestimated. Manually inspecting products is still a popular choice for many companies today and while it has some advantages, the downsides can prove to be hugely problematic.
In most cases this is due to mental fatigue of staff whose concentration levels naturally decline after an hour or two. The question is, why does this happen and what can be done to rectify it? Our blog digs a little deeper to find out more about the study of human concentration, the history behind a term referred to in psychology as vigilance decrement, and how it affects the manufacturing process.
What is vigilance decrement?
The term vigilance is used in the context of sustained concentration, meaning being able to sustain concentrated attention for long periods of time. A study focused on human vigilance was conducted during the Second World War by Norman Mackworth, a renowned British psychologist and cognitive scientist.
His 1948 paper ‘The breakdown of vigilance during prolonged visual search’ has since gone on to become the most influential publication about human vigilance. His study was centred on the mistakes made by radar and sonar operators towards the end of their shifts.
To understand why this occurred he used a test method that eventually became known as the Mackworth Clock. He discovered that operators experienced a decline in signal detection the longer they were asked to concentrate, an event now referred to as vigilance decrement.
Those who took part in the experiments were noted as losing between 10-15% of their concentration ability within the first 30 minutes of a two-hour period, and it continued to gradually decline over the remaining 90 minutes.
Graphs showing the downs and ups of vigilance. The vigilance decrement as a decline in signal detection over time or an increase in response time to correct detections over time.
Reference: Vigilance, workload, and stress – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/The-downs-and-ups-of-vigilance-The-vigilance-decrement-as-a-decline-in-signal-detection_fig1_286031710 [accessed 20 Aug, 2018]
How might vigilance decrement affect your business?
Even in today’s technologically advanced manufacturing world there are still a large number of companies who rely on traditional manual methods in their factories. This is particularly true when talking about product inspection and quality control. Sometimes it may simply be a case of preference, or lack of budget. In many cases it is believed that manual quality control is the most accurate way to ensure goods are made to standard, with a premium price often paid to keep this manual process in place.
Norman Mackworth’s study on vigilance decrement focused on radar and sonar operators but the idea is transferable to any activity requiring long periods of concentration. In an age where mobile phones and digital devices are touted as being responsible for our shortening attention span, the results of Mackworth’s research is possibly more relevant than ever.
Staff members who are given the task of manual quality control will naturally experience a fall in levels of concentration the longer they are doing it. This will invariably mean quality control standards will also dip during this same period, allowing sub-par products to slip through the net. There is still a chance these mistakes can be identified before the goods reach consumers, but if not, this could lead to expensive returns and recalls and ultimately a loss in public confidence.
What can you do to reduce the effects of vigilance decrement?
The good news is you will be able to implement some measures that can help avoid some of the damaging aspects of vigilance decrement. What should be remembered though is that this will not eliminate the issue completely and will require close monitoring, intricate scheduling and potentially higher on-going costs.
How do I eliminate the vigilance decrement effect?
While there are ways to reduce the effects created by low levels of concentration during manual product inspections, it cannot be removed completely. Mistakes are an inherent part of our human make-up and while there are some positives to be gained from that in terms of learning from our errors, in a manufacturing environment it usually equates to loss of valuable time and money.
This is where automated machinery holds a big advantage, inspecting products at a faster rate without being affected by vigilance decrement even after hours of repeating the same process.
A perfect example would be vision inspection systems which are used to significantly improve quality control. These automated inspection systems use either standard 2D cameras or 3D laser line scanners. This enables manufacturers to check and read product labels, measure the size and shape of objects to ensure each one is at the correct dimension, inspect for marks or scratches and much more.
Understanding which machine vision system is right for you may require a little assistance, but regardless of the scale of operation or type of product there is one available that will ensure your quality control is significantly improved.
Find out more…
Our support contract schemes have been designed to work for you – they’re as bespoke as our automation solutions! Whether you need 24/7 support or just an annual maintenance visit, each contract can be tailored to suit your exact requirements.
There are four different levels of support available and these are explained in detail in our brochure which is downloadable here.
To discuss these contracts in more detail, contact us at email@example.com, or 01223 499488.
When calculating payback with automation it is easy to think that payback is equal to the number of staff wages saved by the automation multiplied by the annual staff salary, but this is rarely correct. Calculating the payback on an automation project is often more difficult and involved than people imagine. There are many factors to consider including:
To help you pull it all together we have created a simple excel payback calculator which you can download for FREE. This asks all the key questions needed to calculate payback and then gives you several statistics to help you with your business decisions in relation to automation. It also has a finance offer, so once you have completed the form, the second tab has a finance scheme offer from our leasing provider Tower Leasing.
Find out now! Download the payback calculator using the form below.
If you have any questions or difficulties filling it in, feel free to contact us on 01223 499488 and we will be glad to help.
The debate around Brexit continues to intensify as not only the UK, but also our trading partners across the world, patiently await definitive announcements regarding our exit from the EU. The big question on the lips of all manufacturers is how will Brexit affect manufacturers in the UK?
At Granta Automation we remain cautiously optimistic about its effect on the sector and the economy as a whole and below we look into the current state of manufacturing and how things might develop over the next 12 to 18 months.
A positive end to 2017
Manufacturing in the UK experienced an unexpected upturn throughout most of 2017, ending on a largely positive note, with the average between October and December 2017 the highest seen in the industry for almost ten years. However, there is still an air of uncertainty surrounding the long term effects of Brexit and how it will directly impact on the manufacturing sector.
As it currently stands, manufacturing makes up approximately 10% of the UK economy although this doesn’t take into account the many trades and jobs that support – and are supported by – the industry. How Brexit will impact on these industries is unknown and the ripple effect created through these associated industries could prove problematic.
British goods retain their value
Although 2017 ended on a high note, the economy has slowed down somewhat at the start of 2018. The first quarter saw growth drop to 0.4%, an 8 month low that is in stark contrast to the rise in production seen the previous year. Since the Brexit results were announced in June 2016 it is the second lowest reading, despite output remaining above 50 on the purchasing manager’s index.
With the pound starting to regain its strength British products are more expensive compared to previous years. Although, a new report by Barclays in February highlighted that overseas consumers were willing to pay up to 22% more for British food goods. This also translates across to other industries such as automotive (10%), alcohol (9%) and clothes (9%) with consumers prepared to pay premium prices for products that are labelled as British made.
Areas of concern
Not every study offers such good news, however. Based on the current models of Brexit currently under consideration by the government there are concerns that British manufacturing exports could be reduced by a third, as detailed by the UK Trade Policy Observatory in their paper released earlier this year.
Their analysis was based on leaked estimates from the Treasury, building a more comprehensive model to assess the impact on 122 manufacturing sectors. They suggest that areas such as Sunderland, Coventry, Derby and Birmingham could be amongst those worst affected by the current Brexit plans. Taking into account increases to other domestic industries their final estimation was a total reduction in manufacturing output of 3.6%, with carmakers facing the biggest uphill struggle. The aerospace and pharmaceutical manufacturing sectors were also singled out as being particularly hard hit.
2018 and onwards
The collapse of Carillion at the start of the year may have put many other firms on edge about the coming 12-24 months, however, it should not be forgotten that the problems the construction giant struggled to overcome were far more complicated than simply being related to Brexit. It should also be remembered that optimism in the manufacturing sector was high at the start of the year, as illustrated by manufacturers organisation, EEF’s report which saw many business anticipating more productivity in 2018.
Industry 4.0, or smart manufacturing as it is also known, also holds significant opportunities for manufacturing companies, along with increased investment in automation and robotics and further integration of Internet of Things (IoT).
Of course, the analysis so far is based on hypothetical studies and research, using concepts and plans that are far from set in stone. Every week seems to bring a new development as disagreements continue between the Houses of Parliament, the House of Lords, the Irish government and the European Union themselves.
The uncertainty is unsettling to the business community as a whole and isn’t exclusive to the manufacturing sector, but until discussions are complete, decisions are made and new policies implemented, there is no sure fire way of knowing how the economy will be effected in the long run. The good news is that despite the lack of clarity the manufacturing sector continues to evolve and move forward and there are still a lot of exciting developments we can all look forward to over the coming months.
To find out how we can help you keep pace with the changing face of manufacturing in the UK, contact our automation consultants who are always on hand to quickly respond to your questions, and provide detailed answers based on your current requirements. They can be contacted on 01223 499488, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more…
What is data logging?
Data logging is the collection and recording of information and data from around your production process. Data is usually collected automatically, but there may also be the need for manual input points where staff can input data or add relevant comments to explain the reason for downtime, faults, or change of operator.
Within any production line there are large quantities of data that can be logged. The data that you decide to collect for your production process should be data that is going to be useful to you in informing developments and improvements within your production. Examples of the type of data that is often collected include:
Data can be collected automatically by sensors within the production line that are set to monitor the production process. The data that these sensors collect is then harnessed and recorded in a central PLC/PC based controller. This logged data can then be combined, recalculated, plotted on graphs, displayed on dashboards, compared to previous data and used to inform business decisions in relation to staff, product and production.
All of this data can be viewed from your PC or Smartphone enabling you to closely monitor your production line from anywhere at any time; you can even monitor your process from home on your smartphone via the cloud. There is no longer the need to walk around the factory floor to see what is happening.
Why log data?
Many companies have lots of machinery within their production process but do not log the interaction between them or their running time and down time. This means that making business decisions in relation to production can be very difficult as there is no data to work on. Without a data logging system it is very difficult to obtain the necessary information for you to know exactly what is happening in your production process. Questions such as: ‘Why did the operator stop the machine?’, ‘Why did the machine operator not take any product off the machine for the last 15 minutes?’, and ‘Why was there a product fault?’ are all very difficult to answer without the relevant data.
Logging data provides you with the necessary information to make educated and informed decisions in relation to improving your production process and efficiency. It enables you to pick up on areas of the production line or staff that are bottlenecks within the process. Having collected the relevant data, you can then implement changes to eliminate the bottlenecks as well as having the option to set staff bonuses based on throughput and production speed.
The pitfalls of data logging
One of the largest pitfalls of data logging is collecting too much data. Having too much data can mean that no data gets used at all as when there’s a lot of data it becomes cumbersome to pull out the data you really need. It is therefore very important to be very focused on what data you need to collect and what you are going to use this data for. It is important to think carefully as to what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to use the data that you collect to improve your production.
How to implement
As with any type of automation, you need to start with the end goal in mind and ensure your production monitoring system is built to suit your end goal. If for instance you are wishing to just monitor the end of a production line, you can have some sensors installed around the end of the line to monitor quality, quantity and speed.
It is important to get staff buy in on a production monitoring scheme, and this can be achieved by introducing a bonus scheme based on the results from the data you collect, as well as enforcing the use of the system.
Use the data
If you don’t use the data you collect, production monitoring can easily become a wasted investment. As a production manager this data is very useful in identifying bottlenecks and faults within your process. Having identified a fault or bottleneck, you can then implement change and monitor the data to check that the changes you have implemented have worked. It is then possible to back up why you have implement change when discussing with your staff or managers as you have the data available to prove your point. e.g. We have implemented these changes because the data showed this machine was a bottleneck/down for 5% of the time, due to an issue. Since we have identified and sorted this issue we have seen a 5% increase in production from that machine bringing £20,000 more revenue to the business per month.
Data can also be used for staff motivation schemes. Last week I was at a factory where we had installed a production monitoring system. Part way through the afternoon one of the factory workers suddenly began leaping around and shouting for glee because he had hit his bonus target and his dashboard had gone green ahead of all the other factory staff. Actions like this are infectious! Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm! Having a scoreboard drives employee engagement as your staff can tell if they are winning or losing. Think about it; If you were watching a few kids having a football match at your local recreation ground from a distance, do you reckon you could tell if they were keeping score or not, just from the way they were playing? The answer is definitely YES! If you went to a football match but there were no scoreboards and you didn’t know the score, would you be as enthused about the game? Would you be giving the same level of support? When an employee knows what they are working towards it adds a sense of purpose to their work. They become motivated by the scoreboard and start to take ownership for their part in the score, a positive culture starts to develop in the company.
For more information on production monitoring and data logging, contact our automation consultants on 01223 499488, or if you would prefer, get Instant Pricing for Production Monitoring and Data Logging Systems now.
Begin your journey… Achieve with Automation
Find out more…
Granta were asked by a medium sized food factory to look at ways of improving their current manual bag stacking process. They were packing dry, free-flowing, granular product into 25kg bags and then manually stacking the filled bags onto pallets at the end of the production line.
They had been having complaints from staff in relation to back pain due to lifting and stacking the 25kg bags all day. There were also other issues with manually stacking the bags onto pallets:
With the need to increase production speeds and address the health and safety issues they were experiencing, they requested Granta to come up with a solution.
We carried out an on-site assessment of the existing process so that we fully understood the customer’s requirements. During this assessment we realised that there was an added challenge to automating the palletising process: once the bag had been laid down after the mouth of the bag had been stitched, we would then need to redistribute the product within the bag, prior to stacking it on the pallet. We knew that flat bags were going to play a key part in achieving a neatly and safely stacked pallet.
Following our site visit, our automation consultants held a brainstorming session to come up with the best automation solution for this company. We explored ideas and methods and discussed these with our customer and collaboratively came up with the following solution.
We designed, built and installed a bespoke robotic palletising cell for the end of their production line which included:
The solution proved to be very successful and gave the food company an increased production throughput of 150%!
With the installed automation having been so successful the customer asked us to replicate the same system on two more of their manual bagging lines. Our automation consultants reviewed the palletiser system we had installed and came up with a scheme of using one robot to serve the additional two lines rather than having to install two separate robots. This would save the customer cost and space.
Following consultation with the customer, we designed, built and installed the following system;
The Final Outcome?
The success of the manufacturing sector relies on constant evolution of the processes involved, utilising new equipment, technology and techniques to find optimal efficiency gains. The exponential growth of technology, in particular, remains as true today as it did 50 years ago and the production landscape is changing shape faster than ever before.
Keeping pace with developments allows your business to remain a constant and relevant force in the market place. With that in mind, we’ve listed what we believe to be the key trends in the manufacturing industry and what you need to focus on for your manufacturing plant in 2018/19.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The need to increase efficiency, reduce costs, improve safety and incentivise product innovation are just some of the challenges facing manufacturers who are considering implementing the Internet of Things into their operations.
IoT enabled equipment will allow manufacturers to maximise the lifespan of their technology without disturbing the output. With lower levels of maintenance planning, equipment downtime and maintenance costs, it provides a number of essential advantages in an increasingly competitive market.
Enhanced connectivity will dramatically change how manufacturers capture and use key data. In turn this will provide stronger insights into the supply chain and inventory processes. Optimising production in real-time will enable businesses to become more efficient and limit wastage output.
Otherwise known as smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0 has been labelled as the 4th industrial revolution. The use of advanced manufacturing technology right across the production chain provides vast improvements on processes, enhancing efficiency and making the factory floor safer for employees. The ability to monitor and analyse assets more closely ensures it is possible to constantly tweak and evolve the level of output.
The implementation of Industry 4.0 provides a number of advantages for manufacturers, including increased productivity, faster reaction times to customers, the creation of new services and product lines, as well as improved delivery to market. With the right framework in place and the critical business areas addressed, smart manufacturing opens up extensive and exciting new possibilities across almost every sector.
Collaborative robots are already in place in a number of factories in a wide number of industries. However, technology never stands still and the evolution of these robots means lightweight and agile versions are set to become more common place in the manufacturing sector.
Cobots are being designed to be more sensitive to respond to human interaction and reduce the level of risk involved in working more closely together. For example, built in sensors can detect the presence of a human and reduce the operating speed the closer the human gets to the machine. Cobot’s can also control the speed and force being applied and instantly stop when an obstacle is encountered, significantly lowering the impact density.
While virtual reality has made great strides in the past decade, experts have always felt that augmented reality offered even greater opportunities. The blending together of the real world with advanced computer generated visual aids may still be in its early stages but interest from the manufacturing sector is rapidly gaining pace.
For example, the use of wearable technologies connects workers to a goldmine of information and data to help optimise job performance while increasing safety. AR could be implemented on assembly lines, skilled training, maintenance, support services, quality assurance and automation.
At one time this sort of technology may have seemed light years away from being used in real time environments. This is no longer the case with AR actually in use in a number of facilities right now. As the technology improves exponentially, so will the myriad of ways it will improve the manufacturing sector.
The use of 3D printing technology is becoming more common place, helping to introduce efficient and cost effective practices. Additive manufacturing allows for the prototyping, tooling – and on occasion – the production of applications used within the manufacturing process.
3D printing enables manufacturers to reduce the large inventories of spare parts required to respond quickly to customer orders. By being able to produce the part without large stock levels adding to their storage space costs, response times are maintained, while being more cost effective and maintaining the integrity of the equipment supplied.
Using additive manufacturing processes to create prototypes and tooling moulds increases operational efficiency while also lowering costs. Rather than running up huge costs and taking months to produce, 3D printing enables this to be produced within a matter of days.
To find out how we can help you keep pace with the latest automation and robotic technology for your facility, contact our automation consultants who are always on hand to quickly respond to your questions, and provide detailed answers based on your current requirements. They can be contacted on 01223 499488, or via email at email@example.com .
Find out more…
Copyright © 2016 Granta Automation. All rights reserved.