Manufacturing automation refers to automating manual tasks in the factory with software or machines such as robots.
Over the years, manufacturers have sought to automate as many processes on the factory floor. It is expected that in the future, factories will be fully automated. This means that most or all manufacturing processes will be handled by machines or software.
There are many benefits a factory can gain by adopting manufacturing automation.
Manufacturing automation improves the production capacity of the factory that adopts it. First, the software or robots used for automation aren’t like human beings. They will work for hours without the need for a break. Thus, using robots increases the number of products leaving the factory floor in a day or a given hour.
Robots can work continuously without breaks ensuring an uninterrupted productivity streak for the factory.
Additionally, robots and software used for automation rarely break down. Thus, the robots do not stop for repairs. They also require little if any maintenance to ensure continuous production.
Lower Production Cost
Factory automation lowers production costs. Depending on the task being automated, one robot can easily replace four workers on the factory floor. This will significantly reduce the cost of production for the factory.
Further, automation is not an expensive endeavor depending on the size of the factory. You can purchase a single collaborative robot to automate several tasks in the factory. It is a cost-effective automation method for many small factories.
There are many injuries on the factory floor. Each injury that happens is a cost to the factory as it has to pay to treat their employee. Fewer accidents and injuries occur after automation. This helps the factory to reduce and save on their medical costs.
Increased Safety In The Factory
Automation increases safety in the factory. First, hazardous tasks that are handled by employees in the factory are assigned to robots. This ensures the health and safety of the employees.
Additionally, safety is enhanced in the factory by automating tasks that involve heavy lifting. Before automation, many employees get injured and require treatment when carrying heavy loads in the factory.
Traditional robots were kept shielded away from employees on the factory floor. Accidents with these robots caused fatal injuries. Collaborative robots that are increasingly used for automation are safe next to employees.
They have a sensor that instructs the robot to work or move slowly when near a human worker. It also has a safe design with rounded corners that prevent injuries when a human worker collides with the robot.
Increase Product Quality
Manufacturing automation also helps to improve the quality of the products from the factory. First, robots and software used for automation are more accurate than human workers. Thus, a factory that adopts automation produces uniform products. The automated production process doesn’t have any rejects.
Human workers may get bored and lose concentration especially when carrying out monotonous tasks. This will cause a lack of uniformity in the end products.
Enhance The Competitiveness Of The Factory
If a small factory adopts manufacturing automation, it can easily compete with larger manufacturers. By adopting the use of machines for production rather than manual production, a small factory can have lower costs of production. This means that it can price its products at the same price or lower than larger competitors.
At the same time, it can match the quality of its products to those of the larger competitors easily.
Automation can also help a factory create a variety of products as machines can work continuously. All that is required is for the machine to be given instructions on how to carry out given tasks.
Robots for automation can make products of varying dimensions, colors, and quality. This enables a company to capture a wider market with its products thus, improving its financial position.
Types Of Manufacturing Automation
Fixed automation is an automation process for a single product on a single machine. The machine or robot used in fixed automation is made specifically to automate a particular process. The machine cannot be used for any other process within the factory.
Fixed automation is recommended for products with high production rates. Thus, it is best for companies that produce high volumes of products such as car spare parts.
Further, it involves a larger upfront investment to purchase or have the software or machine developed. Assembly lines and conveyor systems are some of the popular fixed automation systems.
Fixed automation is also known as hard automation.
Programmable manufacturing automation relies on a program to govern it. This means that the instructions for the task at hand must be programmed into the machine or robot for it to start and complete the task.
Unlike fixed automation, programmable automation is not configured into the equipment used for automation. As a result, it can handle a range of tasks on the factory floor once the instructions for each task are programmed.
Robots and CNC machines are some of the prominent programmable automation examples. Program instructions for a particular task into a robot and it will complete that task perfectly. Once it has completed the task, you can program instructions for another task for it to complete.
Flexible automation is similar to programmable automation. However, in this case, the number of changes or tasks that you can program into the machine is limited. This helps to save time when programming instructions into the machine. Programmable automation consumes a lot of time when changing over tasks.
Flexible automation allows a factory to produce a range of products one after another without batching.
Assembly lines and material handling systems are examples of flexible automation systems in a factory.
Manufacturing automation is an essential part of all manufacturing entities. It makes work easier, lowers the cost of production, and increases profitability. As technology advances and artificial intelligence and other technologies are adopted, manufacturing automation will be an integral part of the manufacturing process.