The main benefits of industrial automation include reduced costs, improved quality and increased flexibility. Automation also allows companies to operate around the clock, which reduces product lead times and enables them to remain competitive in the global marketplace. Machines can do the work while keeping humans safe from dangerous devices, reducing accidents and injuries. They can adjust to various product configurations and quickly meet changing market needs.
Reduced Maintenance Costs
One of the key benefits of industrial automation is that it significantly reduces maintenance costs. Automation eliminates the need for human operators, saving on salaries, healthcare, paid leave, and holidays. In addition, the machinery is more reliable than human workers and is not prone to error, reducing the need for costly repairs and downtime.
Additionally, when workers are removed from dangerous or physically demanding tasks, they can focus on other tasks without injury. This is a major advantage for manufacturers that prioritize workplace safety.
Another way to reduce maintenance costs is by monitoring equipment using sensors that alert you to any issues before they become major problems. This allows you to perform planned maintenance and avoid costly downtime and repairs impacting revenue and product quality. Moreover, flexible automation systems can be easily reprogrammed to adapt to changes in production requirements and workflows. This enables manufacturers to respond quickly to new or existing customer demands, maximizing their profitability and competitiveness.
As a result, investment in automation technology starts saving money immediately, allowing companies to use those savings to continue investing in more advanced technologies year after year. This helps them stay ahead of the competition and be relevant in an ever-changing manufacturing landscape.
In addition to lowering operating costs, industrial automation increases production levels. Automated machines can work without breaks, holidays, or other interruptions and produce products continuously, resulting in high-quality products with consistent quality. With the advent of programmable automation, companies can now automate entire processes that can be repeated. This type of automation uses a computer program to control and monitor machinery, which may include robotics or conveyor systems. It’s ideal for processes with many changeovers, such as manufacturing dozens or thousands of identical units.
Another example of industrial automation is an autonomous forklift, which takes over repetitive and tedious warehouse tasks such as stacking, retrieving, transporting and picking orders. This allows workers to focus on value-adding tasks that drive more productivity for the company. The next level of automation is end-to-end factory automation, also known as lights-out manufacturing. This means an entire plant can run 24/7 without relying on human workforces. This kind of factory isn’t quite ready for prime time.
Still, it is an example of the future of industrial automation and how factories can be automated to work around the clock with no human intervention. This will require more sophisticated automation, which does have a higher upfront cost but could eventually result in lower operating costs and more productive production.
Industrial automation removes human beings from dangerous jobs and environments, which can be hazardous to the physical health of workers. This prioritization of safety reduces worker stress, fatigue, and injury. As a result, it can significantly lower the risk of accidents that can be costly to a business’s bottom line. Automation also allows companies to work around the clock, which can improve productivity and help them keep up with customer demand. This is important, as downtime can dramatically decrease productivity in a manufacturing facility. Unplanned downtime costs manufacturers $50 billion a year.
Some types of industrial automation are designed to change their operation depending on the needs of a production process. This is known as flexible automation. It can be changed with the simple input of a computer code, which is useful when an organization manufactures products with a variety of configurations.
Another type of industrial automation is fixed automation, which is suitable for processes that produce a limited range of similar products. This system is less expensive than flexible automation but can’t be altered to accommodate different product specifications.
In addition to allowing for greater flexibility, industrial automation systems can provide more accurate and detailed information about production processes. This can lead to more cost-efficient decisions by managers. Additionally, automated systems can collect and process data more quickly than humans.
Industrial automation systems can monitor and control machines to adapt quickly to the different products being produced in the factory. Unlike traditional manual labor, which can be affected by downtime and bottlenecks, a system can use real-time data to find root causes of problems and regulate inventory so that production remains on track without interruptions.
In addition to freeing human workers from the repetitive and often boring work of manual tasks, industrial automation can improve safety. This is because automation can eliminate repetitive and dangerous work that can lead to fatigue, accidents, and lower employee morale. It also allows employees to shift their focus towards more meaningful and valuable work, boosting worker retention and creating a positive working environment.
Furthermore, with no need to pay staff for healthcare costs, pension payments, or wages, implementing industrial automation can be much cheaper than employing people. In addition, plants can be run 24 hours a day without stopping for shift handovers or holidays, further increasing productivity.
Finally, robotic equipment and automated machinery don’t suffer from the same type of fatigue humans do, so they will continue to work at a high level throughout their shifts, delivering consistent quality. This is particularly important when producing pharmaceuticals, food products and other perishable items.