How to Get Started With Machine Automation

Machine Automation

Companies that adopt automation on the assembly line see immediate benefits from the moment a machine is turned on. Machines can operate non-stop and with incredible precision, speeding the process, eliminating waste, and improving workplace safety.

By the year 2025, automation is projected to have an economic impact between $5-7 billion dollars. The McKinsey Institute has estimated that nearly half of all activities people are paid to perform will have the potential to be automated by 2030. Automation isn’t just the future of manufacturing, but the world we live in.

But where does a company begin when implementing automation into their workflow? Does a manufacturer buy only one machine, or assemble an entire factory line with automated machines?

Below, we analyze these questions in detail, and provide you with all of the information you will need to make informed decisions about automation.

Analyzing Your Current Manufacturing Line

When getting started, consider the critical areas in which your current process is lacking. These include:

  • Cost – Are you struggling to lower cost per unit?
  • Volume – Are you failing to meet demands for a certain product?
  • Quality – Are you having issues with consistency that must be resolved?
  • Safety – Does your current factory line put employees in danger?
  • Waste – Is too much product being applied, product ending up on the floor?

Machine automation can assist with all of these factors, but companies beginning to implement these into their factory line tend to look at the weakest link first, and employing machines there to begin.

For instance, consider a frozen pizza manufacturer. When applying toppings by hand, all of the factors above come into play. The manufacturer can start by adding one machine, such as a Targeted Sauce Depositor.  Applying sauce by hand can be messy, slow and inconsistent, creating a bottle neck in the line. To meet demands for volume, workers might apply the sauce more rapidly, causing inconsistencies in quality and volume.

Bottlenecks like these should be the first place where companies consider automation. Sauce depositors are able to apply an even layer of sauce to a pizza crust in a fraction of the time that it takes to be done by hand, improving quality and speed.

With a higher volume of pizzas now coming down the line, those same workers can be reassigned to other stations that have to keep up with the higher volume.

Finding Machines That Meet The Demands of Your Workflow

Once you have analyzed the areas of your assembly line that are lagging behind, identifying the right machines to resolve this is critical to implementing a solution.

Thankfully, there are plenty of machines available to solve a vast array of problems. If you’re struggling with something on an assembly line, odds are that a machine exists to solve it. When more specific problems exist, machines can be tailored to meet your exact needs.

Where many manufacturers struggle is justifying the cost of adding automation into their assembly line. It is important to recognize the value that these machines provide in the short and long term:

  • Turnover is high in manufacturing, but machines are reliable and consistent. Money spent on a machine can decrease the cost of labor, consider the return on investment (ROI).
  • Automated machines are extremely efficient, and can do the work of multiple people.
  • By performing more dangerous tasks, automated machines improve safety in a factory setting.

As demand for these machines grow, they have grown increasingly affordable for manufacturers to purchase. Some machines have higher degrees of versatility, making them ideal for multiple variations of products that are assembled on the same line.

Assessing the Results

A small manufacturer does not need to start out with a completely automated line – they can start small, and gradually build it up with additional machines as needed. Staff from one workstation can be reallocated down the line to prevent new bottlenecks from emerging.

One solution is to start small, observe how productivity increases, and assess which parts of the assembly line need new automation. Eliminating waste is about careful observation of how productivity evolves after implementing solutions, and finding new ways to resolve those tensions.

Quantum Technical Services is committed to helping your business find the solutions you need to remain competitive in an changing marketplace. Contact us today to find out more about how we can best serve your manufacturing needs in frozen foods, baked goods, and more!