Manufacturing businesses have many challenges to overcome in order to prosper and achieve economies of scale. Whether they are facing difficulties in terms of employee productivity, product quality consistency, workplace safety, or logistics and supply chain management, manufacturing enterprises must take proper measures to address such challenges that can negatively impact their profitability and erode their competitive advantage.
That said, there is hope for businesses facing such difficulties. Factory automation is one such measure that has proven to be quite effective in addressing the challenges mentioned above. Let’s take a closer look into the reasons why.
Factory automation removes the human error factor in manufacturing processes that demand accuracy and repeatability.
Many manufacturing processes, especially those related to the mass production of consumer electronics and its many components, require a high degree of precision and accuracy. From parts-sorting and product assembly to quality assurance and quality control this demand is constant across the production floor. Nevertheless, costly errors still happen due to variance in employee performance. This can be caused by any number of factors, including worker fatigue, inexperience with the production process itself, or just plain human error.
By properly integrating factory automation technology into high-precision manufacturing applications, a manufacturing business can minimize the human error factor in their production chain. Assembly robots with precision linear stages and gantry systems, for example, can provide precise and repeatable movements across different axes. This can add a high degree of accuracy and precision to an assembly line, especially if it involves the picking and placing of delicate components or stringent component imaging for quality checking. Moreover, allowing these solutions to handle these processes ensures repeatability of the most favorable results.
Painstaking and labor-intensive manufacturing processes are made more efficient by factory automation.
Besides requiring a high degree of precision, some manufacturing processes also require a lot of focused effort and labor in order to be correctly executed. These processes may involve anything from precise component assembly to the very act of packaging the final product for shipping to customers or retailers.
Such tasks can cause undue strain to the human workforce due to the sheer volume of work involved, as well as any time constraints they have to abide by. Without anything to assist or aid human employees in these tasks, the chances of unforeseen delays and production stoppages due to injury, accidents, or lack of expertise remain high.
By relying on automation solutions when handling these labor-intensive processes, manufacturing businesses can accomplish them with less time and with a higher degree of efficiency. This allows the human workforce to focus their energies on the more complicated aspects of the manufacturing process that require their most attention and expertise.
Factory automation makes the manufacturing process safer, especially its more repetitive or more dangerous aspects.
One of the bigger concerns when it comes to manufacturing are the detrimental effects that high-volume repetitive tasks have on human workers. Employee injuries and illnesses due to repetitive motions, awkward body positioning, heavy lifting, and even deadline-related stress are very common in the manufacturing sector. These can cost the businesses heavily in terms of production delays, product quality issues, and medical care of employees. They can even get sued by their workers or the government for not doing enough to address hazards in the workplace.
Implementing factory automation can make for a safer workplace. By having such repetitive and risky labor performed by machines rather than human workers, the threat of injuries and fatalities due to these high-risk processes is minimized. Moreover, the production pace is preserved, and it may even be improved or made more efficient due to the tireless nature of automated machines. Should a machine actually break down in the performance of these tasks, it can simply be repaired or replaced.
Factory automation allows manufacturing companies to expand or downsize their operations with little cost.
When manufacturing companies are required to expand their operations due to an increase in demand, their first recourse, usually, is to mass-hire new workers. While this is typically effective in ramping up productivity, certain costs that are associated with large workforce salaries, the upkeep of amenities, security fees, health insurance and other benefits, and so on will eventually compound into an enormous strain on the company’s budget.
Furthermore, the addition of unskilled or untrained laborers into the workforce can result in further delays in production, either due to the need for mass training or injuries due to the workers’ inexperience with the production process.
By investing in factory automation solutions, a manufacturing company can easily increase their productivity without having to expand their current employee count. All they need to do is to upgrade existing machinery in order to have them produce at a faster rate. If there is a need to downscale operations when it’s off-season or due to an oversupply of products, then the company only needs to deactivate some of their machines and operate at a reduced capacity. This eschews the need for retrenching or laying-off of employees that can result in strikes and negative public perception.
Factory automation allows manufacturing companies to sell their products at a lower cost, opening them to a wider market.
The proper implementation of factory automation can help any manufacturing business lower their production costs. While the expense of procuring and installing factory automation technologies can cost quite a bit at the outset, businesses will enjoy reduced labor costs and other production expenses over the long term. This will then allow them to sell their products at a lower price, and thus allow their products to be enjoyed by more customers. This can translate to higher revenues for the company, as well as a more positive relationship with customers.
Factory automation can make a positive impact on any manufacturing business.
There will always be concerns about factory automation and its increasing presence in the manufacturing and service industries, the biggest of all being its supposed threat of replacing human workers. However, the fact remains that with automation solutions, workplaces have become safer and more efficient, products have become cheaper, and human labor has become more available for more important and crucial occupations, especially those that require the irreplaceable human touch. Clearly, the benefits hugely outweigh the negatives. Manufacturing businesses should therefore look into integrating factory automation into their production process as soon as they can handle the initial expense.