Manufacturing Automation: A Deep Dive

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Manufacturing Automation A Deep Dive

Manufacturing Automation: A Deep Dive

Automation is becoming increasingly essential for manufacturers each year. Manufacturing stands out as one of the most prevalent and pivotal industries for applying automation technology. Automated manufacturing, Industry 4.0, and other interconnected manufacturing solutions are poised to gain momentum as enterprises increasingly seek ways to boost productivity and curtail costs. In this blog, we delve into the definition of factory automation, explore its advantages, and explain how it reshapes various industries.

Manufacturing Automation: What Is It?

Automation in manufacturing settings involves machinery to streamline systems or processes. The primary goal of manufacturing automation is to enhance production capacity while reducing costs. This approach is advantageous for repetitive tasks or activities demanding exceptional precision, as electromechanical devices can be programmed to carry out various functions. Furthermore, automation extends to the realm of manufacturing business management. For instance, it can autonomously schedule inventory and transmit and analyze data for reporting purposes. Additionally, automation contributes to heightened workplace safety by undertaking tasks that could harm or jeopardize human workers.

Types of Manufacturing Automation

fixed-automation

Fixed Automation

Fixed automation, or “hard automation,” refers to a system designed for a particular task, making switching between different product styles challenging. Its defining characteristics include high entrance barriers and rapid output rates. The programming is embedded in the machines’ gears, cams, wires, and other hardware. Fixed automation is well-suited for large-volume products, such as automated assembly machines, chemical processes, and manufacturing transfer lines in the automobile industry. While changeovers are feasible, they typically require manual intervention, involving the switching out of tooling and the temporary shutdown of a line by technicians.
fixed-automation
Programmable-Automation

Programmable Automation

Manufacturers employ programmable automation to make goods in batches. The number of goods in these batches can vary from several dozen to several thousand. Downtime is required each time the production equipment needs to be modified and reprogrammed to account for new product specifications. Production rates for programmable automation are typically lower than those for fixed automation; however, this is only because the machinery is built to make product changes easier. Flexible automation is an extension of programmable automation, made necessary due to the high expense of extended downtime.
Programmable-Automation
Flexible-Automation

Flexible Automation

The downtime experienced when equipment is modified to make room for new goods is the main drawback of programmable automation. Flexible automation can be employed to solve this issue. The only disadvantage is that it may restrict equipment operating portions that share similar tools or require additional devices to enable changeovers. This is accomplished by automatically executing changeovers. This indicates a far narrower selection of products and flexible automation will ensure that the automatic switchover can happen fast. Flexible automation is frequently networked since it requires program changes. By enabling manufacturers to manage production remotely, this provides unique value. Additionally, batches of mixed items are no longer created, thanks to flexible automation.
Flexible-Automation

Examples of Manufacturing Automation

You may determine what kind of automation is best for your manufacturing by looking at the various instances of automation for manufacturing processes. Some of them will be examined in this section.

Fixed Automation Examples

For quick manufacturing of a single product style, fixed automation works best. Some of the examples include:
  • Assembly lines with automation
  • Methods used in the manufacture of chemicals
  • Conveyor systems for material handling
  • Production lines for machining
  • Automation procedures for paint and coatings
  • System conversion and handling on the web

Programmable Automation Examples

The ideal automation for manufacturers producing several product batches is programmable. Some of the examples are:
  • Machine tools that are numerically controlled
  • Controllers for programmable logic
  • Commercial robots
  • Manufacturing of frozen foods

Flexible Automation Examples

The most versatile form of automation is flexible, capable of efficiently producing various similar products and seamlessly handling changeovers. An excellent illustration of flexible automation is a robot arm that can be programmed to execute diverse operations such as inserting screws, drilling holes, sanding, welding, inserting rivets, and spray painting. Manufacturers employ industrial robots for various purposes, including:
  • Welding Arc
  • Spot welding
  • Material handling
  • Machine tending
  • Painting
  • Assembly
  • Mechanical processes such as cutting, grinding, deburring, and polishing
  • Gluing, adhesive sealing, and spraying of materials

Industries Making Use of Manufacturing Automation

The majority of industries now use automated manufacturing processes extensively, but the following ones are where we see the fastest growth:
automotive

Automotive

The automobile sector has seen a rise in productivity and safety due to robotic process automation (RPA), which collaborates with people to produce high-quality, time-efficient work. In addition to automated reporting and documentation, built-in safety mechanisms can halt machines and accurate manufacturing procedures can be programmed to eliminate human error.
Pharmaceuticals & Medical Devices

Pharmaceuticals & Medical Devices

In the pharmaceutical and medical devices industry, automated technology has become indispensable. Automation is crucial in documenting, reporting, and manufacturing pharmaceutical items and medical equipment. The precision and lower error rates achieved by automated systems surpass what can be achieved by human efforts alone. This reliance on automated technology enhances efficiency and contributes to the overall quality and safety of pharmaceutical products and medical devices.
Pharmaceuticals & Medical Devices
food and beverage

Food and Beverages

The food and beverages industry has embraced automation to enhance food safety, reduce recall risks, and ensure a consistent product experience for every consumer. By minimizing human interaction in certain processes, automation contributes to improved food safety standards. Automated inventory tracking tracing, reporting, and analytics enable enhanced decision-making regarding scheduling and workflow adjustments to minimize food waste and product loss. This holistic integration of automation streamlines operations and strengthens the industry’s commitment to deliver high-quality and safe food products to consumers.
Products For Consumers ​

Products for Consumers

In the consumer goods and products industry, meeting demand without incurring high costs, especially during periods of labor scarcity, relies heavily on automated procedures. The impact of manufacturing automation is evident at every stage of the process for consumer packaged goods (CPG), encompassing material handling, assembly, packing, shipping, inspection, testing, scheduling, and reporting. This comprehensive integration of automated systems enables the industry to efficiently produce and deliver consumer goods while maintaining cost-effectiveness and meet market demand.
Products For Consumers ​
HIGH TECH

High Technology & Electronics

In the high technology and electronics sector, integrating robotics within manufacturing automation systems has  proven instrumental. This technology significantly enhances production speed, conducts rigorous testing, identifies and removes defective products, and ensures optimal manufacturing conditions. The result is the ability to produce high-quality electronic and tech products at lower costs. The growing demand for electronics is met efficiently through  automation, contributing to increased productivity and the delivery of reliable, top-notch products in this dynamic and rapidly evolving industry.
packaging

Packaging

In addition to keeping workers safe, automation in the packaging sector increases packaging flexibility to handle a broader range of products. It helps businesses maintain consistency and competitiveness in their output.
packaging

Advantages of Manufacturing Automation

Automation in the packaging sector plays a crucial role in elevating worker safety. By automating various processes, manual intervention in potentially hazardous tasks is reduced, minimizing the risk of accidents and injuries. This prioritization of safety creates a secure working environment for employees.

Cut Down on Production Time

Automation significantly reduces production time, empowering manufacturers to adapt swiftly to market changes. This increased speed not only enhances adaptability but also boosts competitiveness. Through the collaboration of automation and sophisticated sensors, validation and inspection procedures are efficiently completed, ensuring quality control and elevated production rates. Machines, under automation, can manufacture more goods with fewer defects in a shorter timeframe, contributing to increased efficiency and productivity.

Reduced Risk and Human Error

Better products and increased safety are both made possible by reducing human error. Recalls, repair costs, and significant injuries all go down. Introducing the option to direct human capital towards research and development rather than routine activities also makes it possible to use resources more efficiently.

Help and Skills Mitigating Labor Shortages

Unlike human workers, machines are less likely to face shortages. Automation technology addresses the skills gap and labor shortage, which can significantly impact a manufacturing company’s bottom line and its ability to stay in business.

Improved Tracking of Production and Analytics

Data can be efficiently distributed across the supply chain and utilized for tracking inventories, system maintenance, and completed items through sensors, robotics, and sophisticated equipment. This enhances the effectiveness of scheduling and planning, enabling better decision-making and increasing the possibility of a higher return on investment (ROI).
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Key Developments in Manufacturing Automation for 2023

Despite recent challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent disruptions to the supply chain, workforce shortages, rising inflation, and expenses, the manufacturing sector is anticipated to experience growth in 2023.
The industry is poised to remain robust as several trends gain traction, including the proliferation of technology, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI), and the utilization of “smart” products. These emerging patterns are crucial to monitor in the coming year.

Improved Connectivity with 5G

The advent of 5G promises expanded coverage, improved connectivity, and faster download times. In 5G-enabled plants, up to 30% production gains are expected, accompanied by remarkable improvements of 90% in defect detection and 50% in assembly time.

Industry-Specific Internet of Things (IoT)

The growth of IIoT is anticipated to be a significant development in the upcoming year. By linking several "smart" devices with cutting-edge sensors and automating and optimizing the production process, IIoT boosts productivity multiple times over. Note that the growth of IIoT and robotics necessitates large network bandwidth; therefore, connectivity capacity may be necessary.

Artificial Intelligence

The anticipated rise of AI is expected to impact the manufacturing industry significantly. AI applications extend to various areas, including production lines, supply chain management, and commercial operations. In the coming years, the main focus of AI applications is likely to shift towards supply chain management, goods, and services, which currently are concentrated on intelligent production.

Skilled Workers in the Age of Automation

Due to the rapid development of technology, workers must acquire new skills and transition away from outdated knowledge that can now be performed by automation.

Human employment is becoming less necessary in specialized fields such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies. For instance, these technologies can aid in understanding the production of goods that might ultimately end up in hazardous or hard-to-reach places, such as space stations.

As digital twins become more intricate and valuable, the demand for individuals with knowledge and expertise in this area will rise. A digital twin is an electronic duplicate of an actual process that can be utilized to comprehend and enhance production lines and outcomes.

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The Future Role of Automation in Manufacturing

As the intelligence of robotics continues to advance, their capability to perform intricate operations quickly, efficiently, more reliably, and with less risk becomes invaluable for the manufacturing sector. Given the current pace of technological advancement, the future of manufacturing automation appears promising.
Looking ahead, the trajectory of factory automation suggests a substantial increase in the application and development of:
application-and- development
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These, along with additional digital production technologies, contribute to increased control over the shop floor, marking a transformative shift in the manufacturing landscape.
Contrary to popular belief, automation machinery manufacturing will not soon replace labor; most processes still need human intervention since people are more flexible and creative. Their retraining process can be completed faster than the reprogramming and reassembling of a robot.
It’s crucial to recognize that automation isn’t always intended to replace jobs; instead, it can cause positions to alter. People can now be more effectively employed in professions that focus more on problem-solving, creativity, people management, and innovation and are safer and less physically demanding than tasks that could pose ergonomic and safety risks.

Smart Factory MOM Solution for Manufacturing Automation – Making Businesses Powerful

Incorporating manufacturing automation tools into the digital transformation strategy allows manufacturers to enhance various aspects of their business operations. The automation journey can commence with basic tasks like scheduling and data collection, evolving to encompass the automation of procedures throughout the product life cycle.
Streamlining manufacturing processes for more efficient production and aiding in the generation of informed decisions becomes achievable through the adoption of an automation system in the industry. This includes integration with related digital manufacturing systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, enterprise quality management systems (QMS), and coordinated material management systems.
The implementation of Smart Factory MOM solution brings a multitude of advantages, including improved training, a unified source of truth for businesses, reduction in errors and time-to-market, and optimization of reporting. Automating planning, management, and business processes results in a more streamlined and effective operation through the utilization of a Smart Factory MOM solution.
These automated business procedures enhance operational efficiency and contribute to endeavors aimed at automating production. Integrating automation technologies and manufacturing ERP solutions can bring about a significant shift in a company’s daily operations.
Our cutting-edge manufacturing software solutions, including Smart Factory MOM, empower firms to streamline processes and maintain a competitive advantage. Experience the transformative impact of our customized manufacturing software solutions for your company to take your production operations to new levels making them more profitable and efficient.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you implement, train, and maintain the Smart Factory MOM solution and count on us to help you overcome any hurdles along the way.