Automation in manufacturing is essential today in a competitive world and offers businesses a whole host of benefits, from speeding up processes through to cutting costs and also minimising defects in products. However, implementing industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution is no mean feat...

So, below we look at the necessary elements for the successful implementation of automation, the advantages and disadvantages of automation in manufacturing, and provide some tips for automating your manufacturing processes. We’ll also discuss some of our automated technology that can help you to speed up some of your processes.

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what are the successful elements of automation?

Automation will help you produce goods faster and more safely, but certain elements are vital to ensure the automation is successful.

Communication between teams

Communication between all the stakeholders on any project is vital. All the different teams involved in the implementation of automated systems or processes must work together, communicating openly.

Often, different stakeholders are brought in at different stages of the project, but this is too late. By bringing in everyone at the very start of the project, you’re more likely to account for all the different perspectives and meet all the different requirements of the project.

Communication between systems

If systems are in place but you’ve developed them independently, they might not be communicating with each other or communicating with each other correctly when handling large volumes of data. Segregation may be required, however, this kind of segregation is bad news because it can lead to big data segregation; data segregation can cause inefficiencies and manual reconciliation; and the inefficiencies and manual reconciliation can trigger data loss or, even worse, data corruption during the data processes. Automation and integration should go together.

Standardisation of the process(es)

It’s a good idea to standardise the manufacturing process(es) before introducing automation. If you don’t standardise the process(es) first, you’ll find it more difficult to identify the best ways to implement automation and implement mass production. You’ll then be able to reduce the amount of potential operator training necessary. The standardisation will also help you to perform root cause analysis regarding any issues in the system.

Data standardisation

Information is key, so you should focus on acquiring, keeping and sharing data, and stay away from closed systems. Minimising manual transfers of information is essential and will make it easier for workers to focus on their jobs.

 

advantages of manufacturing automation

Manufacturing automation brings a variety of benefits to a business and the different business models. Below we explore some of the main ones.

Greater production speed

Machines can operate around the clock every day. Their only limitations are their energy supply and programming. Not only that, but they can also perform repetitive tasks consistently and accurately, something that we can’t do on simple account of the fact we’re human. Unless a machine’s programming or environment changes, it will perform a task the optimal way if we program it to do so.

Fewer errors

In the real world, people have limitations and can get distracted easily. This isn’t the case with smart machines, and, as a result, they have a much lower error rate when performing simple, repeatable tasks. Machines are growing cleverer, however, and are beginning to learn how to perform more complex tasks. In some cases, they can even do a better job of the task than humans.

Cost reduction

Over time, automation and digital technologies will reduce labour and production costs. As time goes by, the business will require fewer materials and less labour to deliver the same output. If, for instance, a machine cuts wood more accurately and produces less waste than a human when doing it, less wood will go to waste and fewer employees are necessary to cut the wood. This increases efficiency for the business and cuts costs and project manage more effectively.

Elimination of boring tasks

Manufacturing can entail mundane, repetitive tasks. Automation, however, can step in here and free workers up to do tasks they find more engaging and remove large quantities of repetitive tasks.

Ability to be more competitive

Automation allows you to reduce cycle times and cost per piece, but at the same time increase the quality of the final products or services. This enables you to compete on a much larger scale… as part of the global supply chain, even.

Increased workers safety

Even the most sophisticated machines are no good without human insight to guide them first. When smart factories employ automation, the workers no longer have to perform the dirtiest or most dangerous tasks on assembly lines. Life-threatening processes go straight to the machines, protecting workers and maintaining their health over time.

disadvantages of manufacturing automation

Of course, all that productivity and cost-cutting will be appealing to manufacturing businesses, but automation has its disadvantages, which we explore below:

Worker displacement

Often, when a machine replaces the job of a worker, the worker will experience a period of emotional stress. This displacement from their job may displace them geographically as well. To find a new job or hold down a new job, they may have to relocate.

High upfront costs

Automation requires a major investment in machinery and software, which isn’t cheap. Such a large expenditure can put some companies off automating their processes (or part of them). When considering whether to automate a task, run the numbers to check the long-term gains you’ll witness as a result of the greater efficiency achieved. Does the investment make sense?

Multiplication of errors

Automation works like a dream when it’s performing the task correctly. The problem is, if the machine is performing the task asked of it wrongly, it will just keep going until someone notices and stops it. If no one recognises the mistake early, the mistake can prove extremely costly.

Less flexibility

Machines aren’t as flexible in terms of the products possible. Manual processes offer much more versatility. Humans are the most flexible machines of all, and not even the most adaptable machines can compete with human versatility.

Need to upskill

Naturally, automation will remove some jobs and make a process more efficient. At the same time, however, it will create new work such as operating the machinery, maintaining it and checking the quality of the output. This means you’ll have to upskill workers in the new role, which isn’t necessarily bad, but you need to be aware of it.

essential tips for automating your manufacturing processes

Are you about to embark on automation of your manufacturing processes? Here are some tips to implement successful automation.

Identify a starting point and criteria for ongoing prioritisation

Don’t try to do everything all at once. Instead, establish a starting point so that, as the project goes on, you can manage your priorities as part of your business plan. A good general approach to identify a starting point for automation is to pick out tasks that are boring, annoying or somewhat painful in some way. These are always good tasks for automating because they can make humans begin to feel like machines themselves, leading to burnout out and higher turnover.

Connect the automation to your business goals

Sometimes, successful businesses implement automation independently of other efforts. Automation may solve a certain problem, but when it comes to how the automation fits in with the wider goals of the business, it doesn’t quite make as much sense.

Even though automation is solving a business problem, it can create silos, cultural resistance and other concerns. When considering whether to automate, management should be asking themselves how the automation will help them to achieve their business goals within four or five years.

Understand what drives your performance

To improve your performance in time and within budget, you have to measure the right variables. If you don’t, you can end up installing the wrong machinery, sensors or software. Make sure you know which variables you can control, and have a way of recording progress so that you can determine whether there have been any improvements and what your next steps should be.

Note the non-value activities

To create value, you have to manufacture a product that people will buy. If you don’t produce anything of value, you’ll lower the cost of your product. Several of the activities that transform materials into products are what you could call ‘value activities’, whereas others may not be. Understanding which activities create value and which don’t will help you to make more informed decisions about automation.

Set a foundation for measuring results

When deciding whether to automate, it’s important for the project to have measurable benefits. This is especially the case at the beginning, so establish these before setting out on the project.

Time savings are often a good starting point. You can simply measure how long a process took before and how many times the process was completed before the automation, and then measure it again after the automation to assess the gains in productivity and make any appropriate adjustments.

Be open to change

You might have done things a particular way, but that doesn’t have to be the only way. If you want to incorporate automation into your manufacturing, you have to be flexible enough to embrace changes when they’re required. Once the solution is in place, you must still have enthusiasm for the automation and the motivation to work with it. Welcome the changes, and motivate the employees.

Take small steps

When taking on an automation project, it can be very tempting to engage in lots of things at the same time. That’s understandable as you’ll be optimistic about all the benefits automation brings. Projects always encounter setbacks, however, and taking on too much at once will just pave the way for failure. Instead of biting off more than you can chew, it’s better for the project team to just take small steps, automating a little at a time and ensuring the automation is providing value to everyone in the business, including supply chain managers, before moving on to the next project.

Make sure you have skilled people for the project

Automation requires a technical skillset, so you should understand your requirements and be honest about how well your employees would be able to implement automation. On the process engineering side, you’ll need people who can operate, troubleshoot and program the machinery and software. On the maintenance side, you’ll need people who have the skills to handle any issues that occur, rather than have to depend on the vendor all the time whenever there’s a problem. Review the talent in your company and train up as required before the implementation begins.

Continue the process

Once you’ve implemented automation successfully, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the project. Sooner or later, the automation is going to need modifications, so you should prepare for this and know how to deal with any changes. You should evaluate the impact of any modification in the process and determine what your next steps should be as part of the project plan and document these on a gantt chart

 

bringing automation to your logistics with our automated loading solutions 

We offer three types of automated loading solutions that can help you increase the efficiency of your operations by allowing you to load and unload trucks and trailers more efficiently. Drivers also won’t be kept hanging around as long before getting back out onto the road.

Using our systems, you can carry out your loading or unloading operations in just a couple of minutes. Over three shifts in 24 hours, businesses have addressed as many as 928 pallets when using our systems.

These systems can help you lower your operational costs, too. They reduce the need for forklift trucks and the number of people necessary to load and unload the vehicles.

These systems go by the name of the moving floor, the slipchain and the trailer skate.

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typical business case example

In the scenario that a business produces and ships a high number of pallets each day, we’ve put together an automated loading system typical business case example to help explain the benefits and how an ROI can be achieved with the investment of an automated loading system.

If a business is running a shuttle run from a factory to a warehouse and back again, they’ll benefit from an automated loading system with fewer people, trucks and forklifts.


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Our Solutions

moving floor

The moving floor is a heavy-duty system that can handle pallets of any size or non-palleted goods, whether that’s barrels, tyres or something else. To transfer the load to or from the trailer, you don’t have to drive a forklift truck into the area. You just set up the floor in the vehicle and place your load onto the coils. The coils then transport the load into your truck or, if it’s already inside the truck, from it for easy unloading. It’s highly safe and highly efficient.


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our solutions

slipchain

Our slipchain solution allows you to perform loading and loading of high volumes in complete safety. All it takes is the push of a button and the tracks of this modular design will rise and transfer the load from the slipchain dock and to or from your trailer. You’ll be able to implement this durable system quickly, as it involves making only minimal changes to your existing structures or trailer, and it connects easily to production line conveyors.


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our solutions

trailerskate

The trailerskate solution can really speed things up. Businesses in the fast-moving consumer goods, drinks, food and packaging industries have found it especially useful. You don’t have to be operating in these industries to get the best out of the system though, as it serves many different types of business well.

Loading is extremely simple. The system’s skates sit on a loading dock that connects to the trailer floor. To move a pallet or other load from a trailer or to it, the system collects the goods and transfers them to the skates to move them. Even when working with high volumes, this system is not just efficient, but also extremely safe.

Implementing automation takes planning and skill, and when executed correctly, can boost your manufacturing efficiency and cut your costs. If you’d like to incorporate our solutions into your processes, contact us and we'll be happy to advise you on the right system for your premises.


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COMPLETE GUIDE

the benefits of automated loading systems

Working with an automated loading system brings with it many advantages for your business. It gives you an opportunity to increase efficiency, enhance worker safety, make room for flexibility and add savings. 

There are a variety of reasons why it is of benefit to rationalise as to whether the investment and The Benefits of Automated Loading Systems is worthwhile for so many businesses. Automated loading systems also have a longer lifespan, which provides your business with a higher return on investment. We’ve drawn on some of our most popular benefits here…


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the benefits of sustainable logistics

Automated loading systems can significantly reduce the amount of Coyour business generates. By automating and streamlining your business's logistics operations with the use of our automated loading systems, we can help you to reduce your own emissions and operate in an eco-friendlier way.

Our automated loading solutions, which are handy when you're dealing with lots of pallets, lighten the load by removing the need for forklift trucks. At the same time, they lower your emissions by eliminating this need; and, depending on how you power your forklift trucks, this reduces your own fuel consumption (and costs). Automation also reduces product damage, which translates into less waste. Learn more about The Benefits of Sustainable Logistics, here.


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automated loading systems brochure

Wondering if an automated loading and unloading solution is right for your warehouse, factory, or business?

Download our FREE Automated Loading Systems brochure to find out how they can help streamline your operations and reduce your environmental impact. Plus, discover the benefits of our different automatic loading systems. 

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