When you think of automation, you may envision sprawling manufacturing shop floors full of complex machinery at work, and large-scale sleek, sophisticated operations managed by a team of experts. Whilst this is true for many big businesses globally, advances in technology have also paved the way for many smaller businesses to embrace automation, whether on a large scale or in smaller ways to improve key areas of their production.
No matter the size of your business, if you deal with manufacturing processes, you should be considering what automation can do for you. It can be a big investment, however, so it's important to be clued up on how it can benefit your business before you weigh up whether it's worth implementing.
Here are the three key areas that automation can improve in any manufacturing process:
Automation improves accuracy
Accuracy with repetitive work is something that all manufacturers worry about. With a pre-programmed robot you can put worries about the potential for human error to one side. Automation adds an extra layer of infallibility - the robot will always go back to where it is programmed to with pinpoint accuracy. This is due to a plethora of different detection and monitoring software involved. Reducing human error will lead to more uptime, fewer wasted materials and identical and precisely manufactured products. The job gets done with minimal man-power needed.
Improve workplace safety
Some manufacturing processes come with an element of safety risk. Over the years, manufacturing companies had become somewhat infamous for being an unsafe environment to work in. Employees were subject to heavy lifting and were on their feet day in day out. The rise of automation, however, means that particularly dangerous and laborious tasks can be delegated to robots, reducing the likelihood of injuries in the workplace.
Implementing the right automation within your business also means that you can introduce tasks that are beyond the scope of a human employee. This could be lifting extremely heavy parts or lifting a large number of parts at any one time.
Boost productivity with automation
Machines don't get tired, or need lunch breaks, and don't even need to think before doing. This makes them the most productive employee you'll ever invest in! With improved productivity, you and your team can pick up the pace of your business and focus on moving forward.
And as an industry suffering a skills shortage caused, in part, by the retirement of the baby boomers, investing in hyper-productive automation can only be a good thing. Robots are taking on the jobs that are proving ever difficult to fill manually.
Opt for collaboration
With the above point in mind, however, automation does not render your employees redundant - so to speak - as it's important to remember that some automation requires human intervention to enable them to perform. This is particularly true for collaborative robots, or cobots for short. They are designed to work alongside humans, whilst upskilling workforces and enabling employees to undertake more value-adding activities.
For many smaller businesses, the prospect of introducing robots into their operations may appear totally out of reach. Cobots, however, cost less to purchase and maintain than their larger industrial counterparts, with their lightweight but rigid construction and sophisticated torque-sensing capabilities. They are also much safer to use and easier to deploy.
Automation and cobots in particular can be game-changers for small and medium-sized businesses that can't afford complex automation systems, or perhaps simply don't require something quite that sophisticated.
Whilst companies such as Ford and Amazon are leading the way with cobots and automation, it's something that is also now making its way into smaller businesses, with cobots seen making cocktails in bars and recommending the best local restaurants to guests within hotels. Who knows where we will see them next - perhaps within your business?
Copyright 2021. Article made possible by Steven Archer, Digital Marketing Manager at Mills CNC