Are you feeling left behind by the Industry 4.0 revolution? You may be considering how automation might benefit your business. In this article, we will look at what you need to consider before automating your processes, and the benefits to your company should you choose to automate.
Bill Gates said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency.” We’re going to assume you run an efficient process, and in that case, according to one of the richest men in the world, automation is only going to make things better. A more efficient process means more time and material saved. This translates into money saved, which is what you need to be thinking about when considering any changes to your process flow.
Automation used to refer only to software-automation. These days, however, automation and auto-motion are synonymous. Put smart machinery in charge of dangerous or repetitive tasks, and the savings in terms of worker safety and health are well worth the cost. Automation can reduce the number of incidents of workplace injuries from one-time events and repetitive-stress-related causes. It can protect clients and consumers as well, preventing your company from enduring expensive litigation fees and settlements. The automation process ensures a higher degree of precision in assembly and reduces the number of faulty or poorly manufactured parts.
With labor shortages affecting many businesses, automation can be an ideal solution. Mechanically assisted assembly lines greatly cut down on the number of employees needed to perform a task. Robot analogs to human workers can often complete a larger variety of tasks than their living counterparts. This can cut down on training, human bottlenecks in the production flow, and errors associated with multi-tasking. Sick days, holidays and general fatigue can impact productivity with humans. This is not the case, however, when you have adopted automation. Automated businesses experience more consistency in their product, fewer interruptions to workflow, and overall greater satisfaction from clients.
Increased production: 24-hour/lights-out factories
With automated assemblies and factories, businesses can now run operations with reduced operational costs all around the clock. Production doesn’t have to stop at 5 o’clock. So-called lights-out factories can run on their own with minimal human intervention. Sensors and adaptive programming allow the system to alter production variables independently of human operators. Every interconnected machine can respond to delays or modifications made by one part of the network.
Integrate your whole production line with automation. This doesn’t just mean the machines and industrial robots in one facility either. Multiple buildings and sites can be connected and can share information. Jobs can be rescheduled, delayed, or advanced by an algorithm that determines the most efficient order. Eliminate or reduce the need for fussy Gantt charts or other project management nightmares. Automation can take care of much of this for you.
Considerations and questions
Before you get too far in looking into whether automation is right for your business, there are a few things you should consider. What process(es) do you want to automate? Will automation continue to be the best option in the long-term? Would your company be relying too much on automation, making it difficult or impossible for humans to intervene when necessary?
Consider the return on investment and other logistics should before choosing to automate your business. Remember Bill Gates’s second rule of technology used in business: automation can make an inefficient system even worse. So, make sure your company is already set up in a way that will facilitate, and be facilitated by, an automation upgrade.
Written by: B.A. Durham