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How Automation Will Continue To Change Manufacturing Facilities

 Posted on: February 23rd, 2023

A worker in a manufacturing plant programming a CNC machine to automate a task.

Automation is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry. From high-speed assembly line robots to 3D printers, these technologies are optimizing the production process by increasing speed and accuracy while decreasing costs. With more advanced automation solutions expected in the future, including AI for quality control or predictive maintenance tasks, this revolutionary trend shows no sign of slowing down.

Additionally, 5G technology is expected to play a role in the future of manufacturing, allowing for real-time data collection and analysis to ensure reliable operations while offering prolonged battery life for internet-enabled machines and massive device connectivity.

The continued development of automation technology is expected to positively impact the manufacturing industry, making it more efficient and competitive on a global scale. Therefore, companies must stay up-to-date with the latest technological trends and innovations to keep ahead of the competition and be relevant in a changing market.

Increased Facility Efficiency

Workplace efficiency is the ability to produce quality output with minimal wasted time, effort, and resources. Common causes of decreased efficiency and productivity in the workplace include manual tasks that are prone to errors, a lack of communication between departments or teams, and difficulty tracking progress. Automation can help overcome these obstacles by:

  • Automating repetitive tasks such as data entry and customer service inquiries;
  • Streamlining communication between departments with online tools such as instant messaging;
  • Using predictive algorithms to identify potential areas of improvement and prevent errors from occurring;
  • Integrating automated systems throughout the warehouse to improve tracking of inventory, orders, and deliveries;
  • Automating quality assurance processes to improve accuracy and reduce costs;
  • Enabling real-time data tracking and analytics to monitor progress from anywhere;
  • Using machine learning to forecast future demand and optimize supply chains;
  • Increasing accuracy with AI-driven quality control systems;
  • Creating safer working environments by automating dangerous processes such as welding or handling hazardous materials;
  • Providing employees with up-to-date information on tasks, deadlines, and progress reports needed to ensure efficient workflow;
  • Monitoring employee activity for time management and ensuring productivity;
  • Providing insights into employees’ performance by analyzing their data on the job.

The future of automation in manufacturing facilities is bright, and its potential for increasing efficiency and productivity is immense.

Decreasing Costs of Robotics

One of the main barriers to implementing robotics and automation systems in manufacturing facilities has been the high cost. However, the price of robots has decreased significantly over the past decade, falling from about $46,000 in 2010 to $27,000 in 2017. This decrease in cost has been driven by a number of factors, including the emergence of new manufacturers and different technologies that allow robots to perform complex tasks at lower costs.

Automation technology can help reduce overall operational costs. Robotic solutions are cheaper than traditional solutions that rely heavily on manual labor. McKinsey & Company's research sheds light on the efficiency of tech-enabled cost-reduction methods. After studying 24 industrial companies, it was determined that incorporating these technologies could reduce indirect costs by up to 15-20% in a 12- to 18-month timeframe.

Imagine what this would mean for your operations. Improved spending effectiveness and capacity reallocation are just some of the benefits you can experience with this approach.

More Access to Talented Employees

Incorporating automation in manufacturing requires those who operate the equipment to be well-trained, leading to a higher demand for talented employees with a blend of hard and soft skills. This means that those in charge of hiring are more focused on finding individuals who possess versatile skill sets, which can help lead to greater innovation and product quality.

Having access to these talented employees can result in the following benefits for manufacturing facilities:

  • Increased access to employees that can use heavy equipment and associated high-quality commercial and utility products;
  • Possibility for greater process optimization, resulting in increased efficiency;
  • Ability to quickly adapt to changing customer demands or industry trends;
  • Improved customer service through better problem-solving capabilities;
  • Potential decreased costs due to improved production methods.

Having knowledgeable and capable personnel is essential in a competitive manufacturing environment. By investing in highly skilled employees, manufacturers can take advantage of the technological advances available to them and outperform the competition.

Easier Integration

A major advantage of automation is that it can easily be integrated into existing systems. Automated solutions are designed to work with various devices and protocols, meaning that you don’t have to completely overhaul an existing system to incorporate them. This makes the process relatively painless, as you won’t have to invest in additional equipment or resources just to get the system running.

Other ways you can leverage automation with existing systems include:

  • Automating the transfer of data between different machines for improved quality control;
  • Connecting a single machine to multiple production lines for increased output and efficiency;
  • Integrating existing machines with newly developed technology for faster implementation of new technologies.

Moreover, automated systems can typically be customized to fit different needs and preferences. This is especially useful for manufacturers who may require specific features not available in traditional systems.

Improved Safety Initiatives

Automation can be used to improve safety initiatives for industrial workers in a variety of ways, including:

  • Automated processes help reduce the amount of manual labor and enable employees to complete tasks from the safety of their own workstations.
  • Automation software can increase awareness of potential hazards and alert employees before entering dangerous workplace areas.
  • Automation tools can control loading docks to keep workers safe during material handling operations.
  • Automated dock levelers and lifts provide a secure landing area for loading or unloading shipments onto trucks, making it easier for workers to transfer goods without exposing themselves to any unnecessary dangers.
  • Automated dock doors and gates can also help manage traffic flow around loading docks, reducing the risk of employee injury from truck impacts or other hazards.

By utilizing automation tools with standard docking equipment, companies can protect their workforce while ensuring efficient material handling operations.

Fewer Reports of Manufacturing Errors

Automation in manufacturing can help reduce the number of errors made during the workday. Automated processes are often more precise than their manual counterparts and can help ensure that products are created according to exact specifications. Additionally, automation allows data to be quickly updated, meaning that any changes or corrections can be applied right away — eliminating the potential for human error.

In particular, automated machine tools such as CNC machines can ensure a high degree of repeatability and accuracy. Devices used for 3D printing can also allow for a higher degree of precision compared to traditional manufacturing methods. Automated inspection systems can also detect errors throughout various stages of production, allowing them to be corrected before they become an issue.

Increased Participation in Complex Tasks

Finally, automation can help manufacturers improve their overall productivity by allowing them to participate in more complex tasks. Tasks such as programming robots, utilizing advanced analytics and data mining techniques, or even using artificial intelligence can be difficult for manual workers. However, with the help of automation tools, companies can quickly access resources that would otherwise take much longer to learn and implement.

By leveraging these capabilities, manufacturing experts can increase efficiency and reduce costs while completing tasks that would have been impossible without automation. It’s a win-win situation that can bring a wide array of benefits to any manufacturing facility.

As such, manufacturers should seriously consider implementing automation tools to increase efficiency and remain competitive in an ever-changing landscape.