Technology Paralysis? The Benefits & Types of Manufacturing Automation
Laura Anthony | Content Design Manager
If you’re a small to mid-sized manufacturer and you haven’t dipped your toes into smart manufacturing, the time is now. Wait any longer and your survival is in jeopardy. Maybe you’ve had great intentions, but you’re frozen with uncertainty as to what technology/equipment you need most, who to partner with, and how much it will cost.
In addition to staying competitive, another significant pressure driving your need to automate manufacturing is the skilled labor shortage. Most likely, it’s your #1 problem. You know firsthand the constant struggle of attracting and retaining great workers. Automation is an excellent solution. And it’s not something for your workforce to fear but embrace.
Automation can give your team more freedom for more value-add roles. In fact, automated systems can create more purpose and engagement with team members because less time is spent on time-consuming, repetitive tasks.
What is Manufacturing Automation?
Manufacturing automation is the use of machines and equipment to automate systems and production processes for increased efficiency. The technologies created help manufacturers with day-to-day operations like production planning, inventory management, processing, assembly, and inspection. The Industrial Revolution graphic below shows the history of how far we have come with our systems and processes.
Some of you may still be trying to implement Industry 3.0 technologies. That’s okay, but as you can see, the pace of change continues to shorten. Manufacturers who don’t adopt new technologies will struggle to compete and already do. The size of the investment and expertise to implement new technologies may be your biggest concerns. But let’s be reminded of the benefits which can drive your payback exponentially. The rewards from manufacturing automation far outweigh the risk.
7 Benefits to Manufacturing Automation
If you are not moving forward with automation, it is costing you in almost every area of your business. Let’s review seven benefits to manufacturing automation.
1. Increased productivity
Automation can increase the efficiency and speed of your production processes and reduce the time it takes to manufacture your parts or products. This can lead to higher output and profitability.
2. Improved quality
Automation can reduce the errors and inconsistencies in your manufacturing process, resulting in more consistent and higher-quality parts and products, and more satisfied customers.
3. Cost savings
Automation can reduce your labor costs by replacing human workers with machines that can work around the clock without needing breaks or time off. Automation can also reduce costly waste and rework due to improved quality.
4. Increased safety
Automation can reduce the risk of workplace accidents by taking over dangerous tasks.
5. Higher employee engagement
Automation can give your workers the freedom to do more purposeful, value-add work instead of monotonous, repetitive tasks, leading to higher job satisfaction.
Automation can be programmed to perform a wide range of tasks, which can make it easier for your team to adapt to changes in demand or production needs.
7. Competitive advantage
By implementing automation, you can improve your speed, efficiency, and quality, which will help you stay ahead of the competition.
5 Types of Manufacturing Automation Systems
There are five types of manufacturing automation systems that improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase output.
1. Fixed Automation Systems
Fixed Automation Systems are designed to perform a specific task or set of tasks repeatedly, without the need for human intervention. Examples of fixed automation systems include assembly lines, conveyor systems, and robotic assembly cells.
2. Programmable Automation Systems
Programmable Automation Systems are designed to be easily reprogrammed or reconfigured to perform different tasks or adapt to changing production requirements. Examples of programmable automation systems include industrial robots and CNC machines.
3. Flexible Automation Systems
Flexible Automation Systems combine the advantages of fixed and programmable automation systems while allowing the production of a wide range of products and maintaining a high level of efficiency. Examples of flexible automation systems include automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS).
4. Integrated Automation Systems
Integrated Automation Systems integrate multiple automation technologies, such as sensors, controllers, and robots, into a single cohesive system. This allows for the seamless transfer of information and control between different components of the manufacturing process.
5. Collaborative Automation Systems
Collaborative Automation Systems are designed to work alongside workers, sharing tasks, and collaborating on production tasks. Examples of collaborative automation systems include cobots, or collaborative robots, which are designed to work safely alongside human workers.
The type of manufacturing automation system that is best suited for your application depends on your specific manufacturing process, the level of flexibility required, and the desired level of integration with other automation technologies.
Manufacturing Automation Examples
Let’s look at a few manufacturing automation examples and how they can save you money.
Robotic Assembly Cells
Robotic Assembly Cells use industrial robots to perform assembly tasks, such as welding, painting, and screwing. They work quickly and precisely, reducing the amount of time and material wasted due to human error. This increases productivity and reduces costs.
CNC Machines use computer programs to control the movement and operation of machine tools, such as lathes, mills, and routers. They perform tasks with a high degree of accuracy and repeatability, reducing the amount of scrap and rework required. This increases productivity and reduces material costs.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) use sensors and software to navigate through a manufacturing facility, transporting materials and finished products between workstations. They can work 24/7 without requiring breaks, reducing the amount of labor required and increasing productivity.
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)
Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) use robots or conveyors to move materials and products between storage locations and workstations. They can be programmed to retrieve items quickly and accurately, reducing the amount of time spent searching for and handling materials. This increases productivity and reduces labor costs.
Cobots are robots that are designed to work alongside human operators, sharing tasks, and collaborating on production tasks. They can perform repetitive or dangerous tasks, freeing up workers to perform more complex tasks that require creativity and problem-solving skills. This increases efficiency and reduces labor costs.
How DISHER Can Help
If you don’t have an automation partner you trust to take your organization to the next level of productivity, DISHER can help. We want to improve your bottom line by adding value throughout your operation. DISHER doesn’t employ a one-size-fits-all approach. We only recommend the systems and processes you need to optimize your productivity and performance.
Our process for manufacturing automation consulting is as follows:
- Complete self-assessment, provide process-flow diagram or value-stream map
- Tour facility and meet stakeholders
- Identify your unique pain points and review findings
- Determine top opportunities and ideate optimal solutions
- Make recommendations for potential automation or other process improvements
DISHER’s Manufacturing Automation Solutions
DISHER’s manufacturing technology group can augment your workforce with staff and project augmentation, turnkey solutions, SCADA, and systems integration. Whether you need one expert or an entire team to get the job done, let us know. Here are examples of specific ways we can advance your operation.
Contract a DISHER team member(s) for the skill sets you need:
- PLC Programming AutoCAD Electrical
- HMI Programming SOLIDWORKS Electrical
- Robotics Integration FEA
- Controls Engineering NX
- Panel Updating CREO
Automation Systems Development
Develop an entire customized automation system with DISHER spanning the engineering, production, and deployment phases. Whether you need a self-contained machine, or an entire work cell designed.
Scope & Specification Consulting
- Understand Pain Points
- Define Scope and Technical Requirements
- Discuss New Technology Applications
- Ideate on Hardware and Software Solutions
- Lead Projects
- Align Teams
- Set Objectives
- Communicate Often
- Maintain Timelines
- Manage Budgets
- Implement Agile/SCRUM
Hardware & Electrical Solutions
- AutoCAD Electrical
- SOLIDWORKS Electrical
- Panel Design
Machine Design & Development
Automation Integration & Optimization
- PLC Programming
- HMI Programming, i.e., Allen Bradley, Siemens, Omron
- Robotics Integration, i.e., Fanuc, ABB, Denso
- SCADA, Data Analytics
- Automation Assembly
- Operator Training
- Run-at-Rate / FAT Execution
Why Choose DISHER?
Since 2000, DISHER has come alongside well over 1,000 clients to help them solve problems with speed, quality, and innovation. We’ve become the go-to source for all things engineering and are known for not only what we do, but how we do it. DISHER team members work to make a positive difference with every client.
The types of projects we can support you with include:
- Smaller Work Cell Solutions (<$200K) – Machine Design, Build, & Integration
- Machine Controls Rebuilds & Retrofits
- Collaborative & Conventional Robots
- Vision Systems
- Single Robotic Arm Solutions
- Machine Tenders
- Parts Counters
- Robotic Process Automation- AGVs & AMRs – Design & Integration
- SCADA Platform Support, i.e., Ignition & Wonderware/AVEVA
- MES Solutions, Machine Monitoring, Data Collection, & Analytics
- Database Connectivity, i.e., SQL Server
- ERP Integration with Third-Party Partners
Start Automating Today
How can we help you automate your operation for a sustainable, profitable future? Let’s get to work. Connect with us to start the conversation.