If you have not already planned to modernize some or all of your manufacturing controls in 2017, you should consider investing in updates in the new year. The manufacturing technologies that will be available in 2017 are all about making positive impacts to a company’s bottom line. Yes, as standalone projects they can be seen as “capital expenses,” but when you dive deeper into the impacts that new technologies can make, automation investments take on a new light. For example, companies that invest in connecting their manufacturing floors to relay real-time data and track key metrics will easily be able spot areas of inefficiency and make the necessary improvements.
Here are five benefits to updating production controls and machinery:
Increase productivity. Using real-time data and dashboard reporting will increase a company’s production significantly. Empowering companies with the capacity to track parts while they are in the work-in-progress (WIP) phase creates the ability to make adjustments before it is too late. Manufacturers can more easily adapt to ebbs and flows in product demand by speeding up and slowing down processes accordingly. Enhanced data also allows companies to spot bottlenecks or identify drop-offs in output and deal with undesirable conditions right away.
Efficiency and accuracy. Increasing manufacturing speed alone doesn’t solve problems. In fact, often when you speed up without considering the risks, more problems surface. To increase speed while maintaining efficiency and accuracy, companies are looking increasingly to the solutions offered by integrating 2D and 3D vision technologies. Line tracking, WIP quality control and vision sorting are all ways that companies can increase production while guarding against undesired faults. Human error is inevitable. As production ramps and shift hours extend, the likelihood and frequency of mistakes increase. However, by integrating vision technologies into key areas of production, manufacturers can ensure that the desired results are achieved.
Less waste. A key benefit of using some of the new manufacturing technologies is their promised value toward reducing production waste. The goal is to detect errors early in the production cycle and/or create flexibility in manufacturing output. If mistakes are caught early in WIP, parts can often be reworked at a lesser cost. Early detection also reduces lost time that would otherwise be put toward a faulty product. In addition, by using real-time product demand in the production environment, companies can reduce the chance of over-producing merchandise, minimize nonexistent error margins, and waste less material and time during production and processing. This is a win for the company and the environment.
Larger profits. Investing in manufacturing automation is all about doing more with less to reduce costs and improve profitability. As mentioned above, reducing unnecessary waste and improving overall production accuracy directly impacts profit in a positive way. Using robots instead of increasing headcount or overtime hours will provide desirable profit contributions overall. Last, using vision technologies for quality control applications ensures that customers receive the “correct” product, which leads to a positive buying experience and brand loyalty.
Better safety. Some of the best robot applications are those that focus on dirty, dangerous and repetitive tasks. Often these instances require less skill and are well suited for robotic automation. Even if you are not ready for a robot, companies can take advantage of new technologies like area scanners, light curtains or safety mats. These systems can be used to keep workers safe around machines without having to use fencing and hard guarding. If there are any questions about general safety or specific requirements, work with a local automation integrator, since they are typically up to speed on the latest standards.
Michael Lindley is vice president of business development and marketing at Concept Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association. See Concept Systems’ profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.