In manufacturing, the ability to track and analyze data is critical to identifying problems that can be addressed. This can be done with the help of automation tools, which allow manufacturers to monitor a production line in real-time. This allows for the early detection of minor to serious issues that may be impacting productivity and quality.
Manufacturers that use automation can also improve their supply chain management by tracking inventory movements on a centralized dashboard. This helps them better understand their stock levels so they can quickly determine if the items they need to begin producing are in or out of stock. This transparency is essential to helping them deliver products to customers faster, which bolsters customer satisfaction rates and can help increase revenue.
Many manufacturers turn to automation in order to boost productivity, reduce waste and be more competitive. By implementing automated production lines, they can produce higher quantities of goods in less time and have a lower rate of defects. Automated equipment also works 24/7 without the need for human intervention, which can significantly boost overall production speed and allow a company to be more flexible when responding to market changes.
There are a number of different types of automation, and each one offers unique benefits to manufacturers. Fixed automation is designed to perform a single function – such as machining transfer lines found in the automotive industry or specific chemical processes. This type of automation is best for production runs that can run for long periods of time, such as millions of product units.
Flexible automation is based on higher-level programmable systems like Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and can be adapted to change from one product style to another. This type of automation can be expensive to set up, but it offers flexibility and scalability as demand fluctuates.
Fully automated production lines combine a conveyor system with a series of workstations that are each designed to fulfill a specific purpose in the production process. A raw work part enters the line at one end, moves through each station and emerges at the other as a finished product. A fully automated line requires minimal operator involvement, with roles reserved for things like system design, monitoring and supervision, and enhancement adjustments.
The biggest benefit of manufacturing automation is improved safety, especially for workers who would otherwise be involved in manual labour. For example, using an overhead crane to lift a heavy item rather than having someone carry it across the factory eliminates the risk of back injuries. Automation can also be used to minimise mistakes that might otherwise occur in a manual production environment, such as mistaking one material for another, or mixing up a batch of chemicals.
In addition to safety benefits, introducing automation can decrease production times, which is vital for companies that rely on timely deliveries to meet customer expectations and revenue goals. For example, e-commerce giant Amazon relies heavily on automation to help it keep up with its high delivery standards, which has contributed to its success as a global business.