Automation is for manufacturers to streamline factory processes and remain profitable. The goal is to increase output versus input because labor cost is rising in our industrial world. Automation is now replacing many manual actions. For markets with a shortage of labor, automated operations can reduce the need for a labor force.
We’re going to walk through the industries using automation to streamline processes.
Automation in Assembly and Handling
Robots are taking over. While it’s a genuine concern, it’s necessary for many areas of manufacturing. Robot assembly, packing and labeling, and product inspection are all important processes in the finished product going to the end user.
What is robot assembly automation?
Industrial production is increasing use of robot assembly for lean manufacturing processes. The safety of workers and the quality of products are necessities to continue growth. Production capabilities have expanded, consistency and speed have increased.
According to Joe Kaesar CEO of Siemens AG,
Over the past 25 years, Amberg has evolved into a fully digital plant, with automation rising tremendously. But what has changed the most during this time isn’t the number of employees; what has changed is productivity. The same size workforce — about 1,200 workers who have been trained and retrained for digital manufacturing — has increased productivity by more than 1,000%.
How Robots are Used in Manufacturing and Warehouses
There are many moving parts to a manufacturing facility. Every process of the development and deployment of a product can interact with a robot. Common applications of robots in a manufacturing setting include:
- Assembling parts together
- Packing and labeling
- Product inspection
- Moving items from Point A to Point B.
Warehouse operations are being streamlined by the use of robotics through these methods. Paul Clarke, Ocado’s chief technology officer states, “Warehouse automation is only possible because of the spread of sensor technology, with ultrasonic and visual sensors used to guide the robots.”
— RBR (@RoboticBusiness) October 3, 2017
E-commerce companies are using robotics to deliver products faster in a demanding marketing. Robots are picking items from shelves, while humans package and send them out. Look at Ocado or the Kiva Robot from Amazon, their platforms allow for fast picking of products and a competitive edge to deliver their products to their consumers. Rapid growth in the worldwide market for warehouse automation is driven by the worldwide boom in E-commerce. Brick and mortar stores have been suffering while online retailers are optimizing their fulfillment processes.
We already covered how our ultrasonic sensors are used in the Internet of Things for everyday applications for consumers. Full automation is achieved in some instances with robots, for others, cobots are necessary to complete the job. In Automotive manufacturing, automation is used to assemble, move products about the facility, paint, as well as many other functions to make the factory move efficiently. The workforce works hand in hand with machines in some instances.
Cobots vs Robots
“A cobot or co-robot (collaborative robot) is a robot intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace. This is in contrast with other robots, designed to operate autonomously or with limited guidance, which is what most industrial robots were up until the decade of the 2010s.” Source – Wikipedia
In the video, you’re able to see how Ford Motor Company uses collaborative robots to complete certain stages in the manufacturing of vehicles. With the assistance of workers on the line, they’re able to finish tasks easily, quickly, and with more precision.
Paintline Automation with Painting and Coating Robots
Robotic painting and coating provide a wide range of advantages, including:
- Improved safety in hazardous painting work environments.
- Consistent paint application significantly reduces material waste.
- Higher product speeds and productivity.
There are many small and wide surfaces to be painted when finishing a car. Robotic painters are much more proficient at executing the task. These automated devices remain unaffected by toxic elements in industrial paints.
The Concentration of Robots in the US
Brookings conducted a study on where the most industrial robots are located in the United States. You can see a noticeable trend in the data.
“This clustering follows logically from the fact that the auto industry—highly concentrated in the Midwest and upper South—currently employs nearly half of all industrial robots in use.”
Automation for Paper and Printing Industries
The paper and printing industries are looking to factory automation systems to meet production demands. Sustainability and environmental goals are high priority in manufacturing as a whole, especially in paper and printing. One of the most important components of paper and printing are automated guided vehicles.
Automated guided vehicles, also known as AGVs are used in general manufacturing but are essential for paper and printing. MAXAGV, a company based in Sweden, manufactures AGVs that are specifically used to move paper reels. As stated on their site,
We know that all too often manual trucks can damage the edges of paper reels by which some layers of the reels need to be taken away.
These particular AGV’s solve the problem of protecting the product from being damaged. The bottom line is affected by waste as well as the time it requires to transport product around your facility.
The Pros and Cons of Factory Automation
There are many for and against Factory Automation in Manufacturing. There are valid arguments as to why robots should and shouldn’t be used.
Craftforce, created an unbiased list of pros and cons for implementing these systems in a manufacturing facility. I’ve placed them in an easy to read table.
A Solution to The Labor Shortage
There is a deficit in skilled workers for the roles required in our factories, plants, and sites.
Displacement of Middle-Class Jobs
The increases in efficiency could displace the working class.
Eliminate Mindless Tasks
Improve the general level of working conditions.
Machines are limited to do what it’s programmed to do, while humans can perform a variety of tasks.
Increased Worker Safety
Transfer workforce form active, hands-on positions to supervisory roles to increase overall safety. Make OSHA happy.
Most automated machines run on motors. More machines = more pollution than human workers.
Improved Product Quality, Accuracy, Repeatability, and Less Human Error
It’s argued, the potential of human error is decreased by a machine programmed to do a repeated task. The accuracy and repeatability is greater than the work of human hands.
Big Capital Investment
There’s a large operational cost to consider when using automated machinery. Smaller operations may not benefit, but larger facilities can make a better case.
Higher Volume of Production
Automated equipment can produce much larger volumes than a largely human workforce.
Unpredictable or Unknown Costs
Fewer Employee Costs
Employers will be able to cut costs like payroll, benefits, healthcare and sick days.
Higher Unemployment Rates
One of the most important Cons. If you are a staple employer in your region, you could risk your relationship with your local and state government. That could affect government support, programs or assistance.
As you can see, there are several factors to consider when it comes to introducing factory automation into your organization. Robots aren’t completely taking over due to the need for a human component in many of these applications. Automation.com is a comprehensive resource for industrial automation and how it is being leveraged across all industries.
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