Manufacturers are looking to automation and Industry 4.0 technologies to boost their efficiency as a result of the ongoing need to increase throughput and save expenses. The use of automation in manufacturing will be examined in this article, along with the various forms of automation, real-world applications for automated manufacturing, and the main advantages of automation.
The use of machinery to automate systems or production processes is referred to as automation in the manufacturing environment. The ultimate objective is to increase efficiency through either increased production capacity or decreased costs, frequently both.
Automation is now more commonly understood as the use of machines to lessen human labor. It is now often related to electromechanical systems that may be programmed to carry out a variety of tasks. While not every manufacturer will benefit from automation, the majority of businesses can discover advantages in one of the three forms of automation: fixed, programmed, or adaptable.
What is Manufacturing Automation?
As mentioned earlier, automation in the context of production refers to the use of machinery to speed up procedures or systems. Automation in manufacturing ultimately aims to boost output while cutting expenses. Electromechanical systems may be designed to carry out a wide range of activities, and automation is especially useful for repetitive or extremely precise jobs. Additionally, automation can be used in manufacturing business management.
Although automation has its roots in prehistoric times, it really took off during the Second Industrial Revolution with the introduction of Henry Ford’s moving assembly line and vast industrial facilities. Then, in the 1940s, D.S. Harder, the engineering manager at Ford, invented the term “automation.”
For example, automated inventory scheduling, sending and analyzing data for reporting, and performing tasks that could harm or endanger human workers are just a few examples of how automation is used to help improve workplace safety.
Examples of Manufacturing Automation
Programmable automation is related to batch production, which is characterized by producing hundreds to thousands of items. The ability to generate more different parts or products is provided by programmable automation. To perform changeovers, however, downtime is necessary. The lead times and batch sizes are adjusted to account for this interruption. Downtime, which is costly, has prompted an expansion of programmable automation known as flexible automation.
Flexible automation is frequently connected to some kind of network that adds value by enabling remote monitoring or control because programs need to be altered. Computer programs are created offline. A designer might upload, execute new programs, or incorporate them into ongoing manufacturing from anywhere in the globe depending on how the gadget is connected.
Changeovers can be carried out automatically thanks to flexible automation. This may require additional devices to enable automated changeovers or restrict equipment to run just portions that utilize identical tools.
The automotive sector is a good example of fixed automation. Before redesigning a part, major auto suppliers may have produced over a million units. Furthermore, techniques like stamping and casting are used, which may not call for control systems as complex as automated milling or robotic welding.
Fixed automation frequently has a predetermined task and is characterized by substantial barriers to entry and large-volume production. The majority of programming is contained within individual machines, often known as hard automation. The machinery or production line determines the pace and order of processes.
Changeovers frequently cannot be accommodated by the production volume associated with fixed automation. However, any modifications to fixed automation would probably necessitate the shutdown of a line and the manual tool swapping of personnel. This downtime comes at a great cost and takes a lot of time. Consider programmable automation for low volume or items with short lifespans.
Manufacturing Automation Benefits
Manufacturing automation is expanding and changing the production floor. Manufacturers are working toward a fully digitized supply chain that includes production, transport, and the tracking of materials supply networks. Before embarking on a full digital transformation, it’s crucial to understand your objectives and how they relate to the advantages of automated manufacturing techniques.
Automation is being used more and more by manufacturers to promote accuracy, uniformity, and improved operational efficiency. First, be aware of your objectives. The easier it is to align with a solution, the more explicit the goals. Although general, objectives like boosting output suggest that you must be aware of the factors that influence productivity. Production lines will be connected and additional advantages will result from the rapid and simple integration of sensors and devices that monitor equipment and create user-friendly data, visuals, etc.
Some of the most important benefits of manufacturing automation lead to:
- Minimized downtime
- Enhanced decision-making
- Reliable maintenance schedules
Manufacturers can understand lead times and deliver more precise estimates and timetables by having real-time data. Automated equipment also enhances repeatability, which can raise quality and lower production variability. Overall, automated monitoring provides transparency for all stakeholders and a more predictable model from which to make business decisions.
The amount of downtime caused by running out of stock can be decreased by having devices to monitor materials in inventory or at a workstation. By changing workflow to minimize changeovers or by identifying areas where investing in greater automation would produce a profit, the ability to view equipment run times may be sufficient to reduce downtime.
Equipment performance can be tracked by monitoring in order to predict when repairs or breakdowns might be necessary. Making better operational decisions and scheduling maintenance for when it will have the least impact on output are made possible with performance tracking. Additionally, automation and monitoring result in better business decisions.
With the advancement of robots, machine vision, IIoT, and other digital technologies, manufacturing automation is moving forward. Know your objectives, how production is affected, and the advantages each technology offers in order to benefit from the rise in automation. When in doubt, keep things simple, adhere to sound engineering standards, and engage with providers who offer friendly customer support.
Where Automation Manufacturing Can Be Found
With all of the progress that has been made in automation services, manufacturers continue to lean on automation to outproduce and outperform their competition. While most industries already employ automated manufacturing techniques, the following areas are seeing a sharp increase:
Automation in the packaging sector increases package flexibility to handle larger and more diversified product variations, keeps workers safer, and helps businesses remain competitive and consistent in their products.
Automated procedures are crucial to the consumer goods sector’s ability to meet demand without incurring losses, particularly when there is a labor shortage. Consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturing automation is present at every stage of the production process, including assembly, packaging, material handling, shipping, inspection, testing, scheduling, and reporting.
Pharma and Medical
Because automated technology in the medical sector can carry out tasks more precisely and with lower rates of error than humans alone, it has played a crucial role in the production of pharmaceutical products and medical devices as well as in the documentation, reporting, and manufacturing of those products. For these reasons, medical automation equipment will continue to grow in importance and value.
As the market for electronics and tech products grows, automated manufacturing robotics may significantly speed up production, test and remove defective goods, and help maintain ideal manufacturing conditions to produce goods of greater quality at a lower cost. Advances in electronics automation services will continue to drive the industry forward.
Beverage and Food
Automation can guarantee a consistent product for each consumer and can minimize human interaction for better food safety and to lower the risk of recalls. Automated reporting, analytics, and inventory tracking can all aid in better decision-making when it comes to modifying processes and schedules to cut down on food waste or product loss.
In the automobile sector, robotic process automation (RPA), which works alongside people to produce more work with high-quality control in less time, has enhanced both productivity and safety. This technology has built-in safety features that can be set to halt machinery anytime a person approaches too close and can decrease human error in operations that need precision manufacturing, automated reporting, and documentation.
The Future of Automation in Manufacturing
Smarter robotics are now available. The manufacturing sector will benefit greatly from its capacity to accomplish complicated jobs quickly and effectively, more consistently, and with less risk. The track of recent technical developments suggests that factory automation has a promising future.
In the future, we expect to continue seeing advances in machine learning, AI, IoT, and robotics. Contrary to popular belief, most processes still require human involvement because people are more flexible and innovative than machines. Because of this, they can be retrained more quickly than a robot can be disassembled and rebuilt.
It’s critical to realize that automation is intended to change responsibilities rather not necessarily replace them. Humans can now be more effectively used in roles that are safer, less physically demanding, and focus more on problem-solving, creativity, people management, and innovation, as opposed to duties that may offer ergonomic and safety difficulties.
Discover how Summit can design and build custom machines to aid with manufacturing automation for your business. You can also contact Summit to start your new automation project today.