The concept of production automation is nothing new of course, with rudimentary automated machinery being put to use as far back as the industrial revolution. Human interaction with machinery has become more intertwined as the decades have passed and we are now stepping into a new age of advanced technology. Manufacturing is more reliant than ever on automation to increase capacity and enhance efficiency, all in the aim of being more productive. Modern automation is generating a lot of discussion around the role it will play across the manufacturing sector, but what are its advantages and how can it be best put to use in production facilities?
Improving best practice
Production automation provides the opportunity to analyse manufacturing methods and make noticeable improvements to current processes. The use of vision inspection systems is a prime example, automating quality assurance and control in ways never before possible. Not only are defects and issues highlighted and handled quickly, but the accuracy of production increases, improving overall throughput and productivity. This is vital for companies working in industries such as food or manufacturing, where they must adhere to particularly stringent industry guidelines.
Bespoke and tailored solutions
There are a number of off-the-shelf production automation devices available on the market but given the differing size and scale requirements of manufacturers, a more tailored approach is often required. Bespoke automated machinery is built with the intention of addressing the individual requirements of the facility it is being installed within. Bespoke machines are designed and built to work within existing environments, and quickly enhance the production line. In some quarters, the word bespoke can be translated as meaning “more expensive”, but this is not always the case. The initial cost is an important factor when building a business case for automation but the short and long-term returns need to be taken into consideration.
The tracking of products is a vital part of any manufacturer’s long-term strategy. Not only does it provide invaluable information about where improvements can be made during production itself but also for the quality of the finished product. Not only do data logging systems retain detailed data generated during manufacturing, the technology will identify issues the moment they occur. The key advantage here is that downtime is easier to manage as problems can be quickly analysed and resolved. This type of production automation is ideal for use in conjunction with vision inspection systems. When configured within the same production line, quality control rapidly improves due to the amount of big data that is now readily available.
Eliminate potential bottlenecks
The main objective of automation is to improve efficiency and productivity within the manufacturing process. In order to achieve that, machines need to be operating at full capacity and ensuring their element of the production chain is not creating a bottleneck that slows down the workflow. One method of automation that excels in this area is robotic automation. Robotic automation increases the speed at which parts are removed or loaded from the production line, helping to ease congestion. When throughput is running as close at it can to optimal levels then this also helps to lower costs and strengthen productivity.
Making the most of existing machinery
Companies looking at investing in production automation invariably view the cost as one of the driving factors behind their decision. The concept of automation brings to mind new, futuristic machinery that replaces old, out-of-date technology. In many cases this is true but there are cost effective ways in which you can modernise without reinventing the wheel. Old machinery can be adapted to accommodate bespoke automation, bringing many of the benefits that come with newer versions. While you may not achieve the sort of optimisation that comes with the installation of brand new automated machinery, efficiency, accuracy and speed will all certainly advance.
Optimising factory space
With growing demands being placed upon distribution centres due to the rise of e-shopping, this also places stress onto the manufacturing element of the supply chain. Companies performing well could be looking to increase capacity which may require new premises, but this is not always a financially viable option. Automation can be designed to make the most of the space available, sometimes even offering vertical solutions, rather than spreading outward across floor level. Automated machinery can be more compact and yet still produce more efficient returns, allowing you to reclaim valuable floor space.
The 2017 Annual Manufacturing Report by Hennik Research revealed that 65% of those surveyed had invested in some form of automation in the past 12 months. Even amidst the uncertainty of Brexit, investment in automated systems is allowing manufacturers to upgrade their facilities and find those all-important competitive gains. Automation is as adaptable as you need it to be, finding new and inventive ways to assist companies in maximising their production output.
To discuss how production automation could benefit your production process, contact us on 01223 499488 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .