Why Invest in Industrial Automation for Your Manufacturing Process?
Changes in the workforce and increased demand for greater productivity make automation an appealing option. The initial cost of investment and pushback from workers afraid of losing their jobs have prompted some manufacturing companies to put off this change in production.
In many cases, these fears are unfounded. Investments have a return as productivity increases from automation. Plus, workers can work in safer conditions. Even in fully automated facilities, workers will still have valuable roles to play in operating and maintaining machinery. So, make this the time to seriously consider automation for your manufacturing operations.
Future Investments in Industrial Automation
A future of investing in automation may already be here, prompted by labor shortages, a rise in digital ordering and a need for social distancing from the COVID-19 pandemic. Mass retirements from older workers also strained existing staffing issues.
Automation in manufacturing statistics from a 2020 survey show that a majority of businesses in the United States are open to adding automation. The increase in this interest from previous years stems from the drastic market changes brought by the global pandemic.
Despite concerns about the cost of automation, all companies that chose to include this technology reported business benefits. The technology allowed companies to socially distance their workers, use fewer on-site workers and continue operations despite the conditions of the pandemic.
Another concern about automation is the loss of jobs. The same survey showed that two-thirds of businesses saw automation as opening new jobs or changing responsibilities in customer service, warehouses and distribution centers. As many as 80% of those surveyed saw maintenance jobs as growing in importance. Maintenance often required more or new jobs as warehouses increased their automation.
In-house maintenance would grow in importance with the introduction of automation on the floor. In-house teams can respond to issues, reducing downtime, and give the company a field to move workers whose previous positions were displaced by automation.
Robotics have already been a solution for distribution centers to reduce labor shortage effects and meet the demands of omnichannel fulfillment. And the need for such technology will likely increase. In 2020, online purchasing rose 28%. The option to buy online and pick up at the store will also increase by 60% soon. Companies need to leverage the technology they have available to meet the demands of these increasingly digital purchases by consumers.
Automation is already in use and likely to continue to grow as more companies choose to invest in the technology needed. You don't need to wait for the future to adopt automation. The automation technology of today already meets the demands of businesses in a variety of industries.
10 Benefits of Integrating Industrial Automation
Integrating automation into manufacturing processes does more than increase technology in the facility. Businesses that adopt automation, even at a small scale, can reap benefits to make the investment sensible. The top benefits of integrating automation into manufacturing processes include the following:
1. Improved Production Quality and Consistency
The biggest benefit of automating some or all of production is the increase in quality and consistency. Automation eliminates human error from the manufacturing process, which is essential for assembling systems or fabricating parts that have tight tolerances.
Automation also allows for slight changes to manufacturing processes to maximize performance and productivity and reduce waste. Such changes allow for maintaining exceptional standards in production, which is essential for industries such as aerospace, pharmaceuticals and automotive sectors.
2. Increased Productivity
Companies that use manufacturing automation often see a boost in productivity. Machinery does not experience fatigue or repetitive strain problems that human workers do. Operations can often continue 24 hours a day and on holidays.
Among all sectors, a 1% rise in the density of robots correlated to a 0.8% boost in productivity. The gains from adopting automation were much higher for businesses in the early stages of integrating robots into their operations. For those companies, the same 1% increase in robot density correlated to a productivity increase of 5.1%.
3. Higher Throughput
With greater productivity and more accuracy, the percentage of rejected components can decrease. Consequently, the production line has higher throughput. More goods get out the door thanks to the greater efficiency achieved by automating some manufacturing processes.
4. Increased Competitiveness
The previous perks of better quality, productivity and throughput enhance your company's competitive edge in the marketplace. With many businesses adopting automation, those that do not will fall behind their competitors.
Many companies looked to automation after increased demands brought about by the pandemic and a rise in digital orders. This need remains elevated. Companies that can boost their production to meet the higher demands will have a better position in the highly competitive marketplace.
5. Rapid Return on Investment
You can calculate the return on investment (ROI) you get from automating manufacturing tasks in many ways. When determining the ROI after implementation, consider your in-house statistics for automation:
Number of people required to do the task manually each year
How many people the automation equipment replaces on the line
Percentage of workers kept to maintain automated operation
The anticipated gain in productivity
Reduction in scrap and reworking
Installation costs for the equipment
For example, if you have a job on a manufacturing line that requires four workers per shift for two shifts at $40,000 per year per worker, that process costs $40,000 x 4 workers x 2 shifts. That costs $320,000 per year for labor operating costs every year. After two years, you would spend 320,000 x 2, or $640,000.
Compare this value to the cost of installing a robotic system and operating it for two years. If installation costs $200,000 and requires one person per shift for two daily shifts, the cost for installation and operation would be $200,000 + (1 worker x 2 shifts x $40,000) = $280,000 for one year.
For two years, you save the installation costs during the second year. Therefore the total for two years of robotic operation would be $280,000 first year + (1 worker x 2 shifts x $40,000) = $360,000
This total shows the potential savings after using automation for two years. Additionally, your business reduces reworking and scrap and increases productivity. With a waste reduction, you have more products ready to ship directly off the line instead of needing to scrap or rework them, which saves your company money.
As already noted, the increase in productivity gains is much higher after initially installing automation. You can see a very quick ROI when you have robots integrated into your manufacturing line.
6. Better Worker Safety
Worker injuries can happen from acute or chronic strain on the body. Manufacturing jobs that involve repetitive motions and occasionally handling heavy equipment put workers at risk. Either type of injury that happens on the job requires workers' compensation and leave. Some workers may not recover sufficiently to return to their prior positions, resulting in you needing to find a replacement on the manufacturing line for them.
Automating especially delicate or dangerous tasks in the manufacturing process can reduce the number of worker injuries your company has. As a business operator, you benefit from having fewer workers' compensation claims and fewer workers needing time off for on-the-job injuries. Your employees enjoy better working conditions and less physical strain from repetitive motions. A better workplace can result in happier workers who are less likely to leave, reducing turnover and your need to hire and train new staff.
7. Solved Labor Shortages
Automation won't eliminate the need for workers. But it can reduce the impact of labor shortages on your facility. While you will likely have a rise in the need for in-house maintenance crews, you can reduce your reliance on large teams on the manufacturing floor. With increased training, you can convert the work of those who once serviced the manufacturing aspect of your company to maintaining or operating the robots on the line.
With enhanced worker safety and less dangerous conditions, you reduce turnover and scheduling gaps due to injuries. Consequently, you can retain more of the workforce that you already have.
8. Research and Development Tax Credits
Investing in automation could enhance your ROI by providing your business with federal research and development (R&D) tax credits. To determine whether technology fulfills the requirements for this tax credit, examine the tools under the four-part test, which includes the following:
Meets the permitted purpose: The technology fulfills the purpose of improving productivity, cost-efficiency, quality or reliability.
Eliminates technical uncertainty: The covered activity would eliminate uncertainty for improving or developing processes.
Process of experimentation: The technology uses a distinct experimentation system to fine-tune the best methodology to optimize operation.
Uses technology: The R&D activity needs to use technology from the hard sciences, such as engineering.
The addition of robotics to the manufacturing line fits with many of these elements. You should always talk to a tax professional to see if you qualify for the federal R&D tax credit or any others states make available.
9. Reduced Training Costs
Training workers in an automated facility requires more specific education lessons on higher-value tasks. For instance, instead of learning to piece together parts on a manufacturing line at various points, taking up valuable time for training, workers learn specific skills such as operating or maintaining robots. Workers can also focus on learning to verify the quality of products produced by the machinery.
With less training required and less employees to train, you can onboard new employees faster and reduce the time your existing workers spend in training classes.
10. Optimized Floor Space
For manufacturing facilities, rents require paying for every square foot. Consequently, any new technology you add must make the most of the space it takes up. Customers ordering custom-built automated cells from Genesis Automation can specify compact designs to fit into tight spaces. In some cases, the cells can fit into less space than required for human operators.
Considerations About Industrial Automation
When deciding to install industrial automation, you should look beyond the benefits. As with all investments in manufacturing, you will have to weigh the feasibility of implementation with the benefits attained.
Can Your Processes Be Automated?
First, consider whether your manufacturing process can be automated. Though some methods may not adapt well to standard equipment, customized solutions from Genesis Automation could help.
At Genesis Automation, we specialize in fulfilling customized automation cells to meet the most challenging needs that standard equipment cannot handle. Our range of industries we serve — from transportation to life sciences — and the needs within those sectors demonstrate our flexibility in creating a variety of solutions.
Can Your Company Afford the Investment?
Next, find out whether your company can afford the investment. The decision to implement robotics often depends on your company's size and available capital. However, don't neglect future savings and rapid ROI when calculating whether you can afford to invest in automation for your company. While robotics often requires initial funding for installation and initial training, you should see a return quickly from reduced labor needs, greater productivity and less waste.
What Are the Ethics and Optics of Automation for Your Company?
Lastly, consider your employees. Would installing automated cells result in objections from workers? What types of objections do you anticipate, and how will you address them?
For instance, if you think your workforce is afraid of losing their jobs, you may discuss the possibility of retraining workers for maintenance and operations positions to augment the automated equipment, if feasible. If your concern is workers opposed to changing positions, how will you address that?
When making updates to your company's technology that will impact your workforce, consider discussing the matter with workers to get their input and to allay any fears of theirs that you can. You may discuss the increased safety of automating parts of the manufacturing process, for instance.
If they have questions you cannot address, find answers and provide them to workers before finalizing your decision to invest in upgraded technology for your manufacturing line.
Realizing the Benefits of Industrial Automation
To realize the benefits of automation, your business needs equipment tailored to your manufacturing needs. Working with automation experts, such as Genesis Automation, to have customized equipment engineered and installed reduces wasted costs since you won't purchase technology your company doesn't need. Additionally, you can have the automated component integrated with your existing product run. Continuing service and support for your equipment is essential to ensuring you get the most from your investment now and into the future.
Request More Information About Our Manufacturing Process Automation Services
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