Automation is defined as technology that allows a task or workflow to be accomplished with minimal intervention from humans. Modern automated technology is the power that drives innovation across many different industries, from factory floors to customer service call centers. However, like many business owners, you’ve probably heard buzzwords like robotics process automation and assumed these sophisticated applications were beyond the reach of your budget.
As process automation has become more ubiquitous in recent years, the technology and tools behind machine learning have also become both more accessible and more affordable for businesses of all sizes. In fact, a closer inspection of the benefits of automated technology argues that automating processes can provide an excellent return on your investment.
The benefits of industrial, factory, and manufacturing automated technology
Whether automated technology is put to work in traditional manufacturing settings like factories or vital sectors like healthcare, the benefits both in terms of labor savings and production quality are consistent. When you employ the advantages of automation detailed below, you’ll enjoy the opportunity of increased profit margins and foster the long-term viability of your business.
Lower operating costs and labor savings
When we discuss industrial and manufacturing automation, we’re usually talking about robots. Robots have mechanical components similar in function to humans, but with increases in efficiency and consistency that the human body cannot produce. Robots can perform the work of multiple people and their ability to streamline processes and increase part accuracy translate into less material waste and ultimately reduced overhead costs. An analysis by McKinsey & Company indicates the cost of robotics has fallen by half in relation to rising labor costs, making process automation an affordable solution to labor shortages.
Improved worker safety
Ultimately, certain kinds of work is best handled by robotics process automation because the risk or repetition make it unpleasant or even dangerous for human labor. Some of the manufacturing processes now handled by automated equipment were formerly sources of frequent repetitive motion or strain injuries. A 2016 study indicated as many as 3,450 workplace fatalities could be avoided as a result of increased automation by 2030. However, even the most sophisticated robotics system requires some human oversight. Allowing automated equipment to take over the high-risk physical labor allows the greatest assets to your business, humans, to focus on innovation and increased production efficiency and quality.
Faster ROI (Return on Investment)
There are many investments business owners can make to expand or improve business, but few have a quicker return on investment (ROI) than automated technology. When automation solutions are customized and focused, the initial investment in equipment and development costs tends to be quickly offset by lower operating costs, reduced lead times, and increased output. However, calculating ROI is more complicated than just estimating labor costs. Helpful calculators like the one over at Robotics.org can help you ballpark the timeframe of your return on investment. To get a more specific estimate, you should consult with experts like the ones at SPI Automation, Inc. who can provide an analysis alongside customized robotics solutions.
Ability to be more competitive
Every industry competes to develop a production model that maximizes profit. In the US, robotics process automation is increasingly part of staying competitive. According to the International Federation of Robotics, 2018 saw sales of industrial robots increase 15% in the United States and grow in sectors that had previously been slow to adopt automation. Automated cells have the capacity to both decrease cycle times and cost-per-piece while improving quality and consistency. One of the main advantages to robots is that they don’t require 24/7 attention and can continuing working while new products, processes, and innovation are introduced offline with little to no interruption to production.
Production efficiency, quality, and consistency
Simply put, robotic arms don’t tire, and when properly programmed, they function without error. This means automated technology is inherently more accurate and repeatable, producing a higher-quality product. Automated technology empowers business owners with more control and consistency in repeated processes so they can employ flexibility and innovation elsewhere in their business model.
“Robotic automation can produce a consistently high-quality finishing of materials, as the robot will not suffer from tiredness, distraction or the effects of repetitive and tedious tasks. Their inherent accuracy and repeatability also mean that you can count on a high-quality finish for every product produced.”—James G. Wendler, President & CEO of SPI Automation
Improved quality of work for employees and reduce labor turnover
One of the biases against automation is that, in theory, it has the potential to harm human workers by eliminating the need for labor and squeezing them out of the job market. In reality, automated technology improves quality of work by allowing employees to focus on higher-level tasks that require advanced skills and training. Automated solutions also position businesses to face the challenge of a large population, namely a fifth of the United States population, hitting retirement age within the next decade and the need to replace them on the factory floors, offices, and workplaces across the national and global economy.
Efficient use of floor space
This is one significant benefit of automation that is often overlooked. Automated cells have large amounts of potential capacity concentrated into a more compact system. Robots can be positioned anywhere—on shelves, walls, and even ceilings. The ability to program robotic systems to work in confined spaces ensures valuable square footage isn’t wasted. Research estimates automated warehouses save as much as 40% more space than traditional warehouses.
How SPI Automation Leverages Automation to Benefit Your Business
From assembly and pick-and-place to material handling and packaging, the use of robots is on the rise in factory automation. Extremely customizable in even the most complex applications, automation systems are beneficial for a wide variety of reasons. Taking the plunge into automation, however, can be confusing and daunting. With so many factors to consider, you may be wondering where to start.
Take for instance a customer who approached us recently with a unique challenge. They were consistently short 20% on their labor daily and needed to choose which production lines they would idle in order to use available labor resources. This customer also faced a 150% turnover in labor yearly, which made them an attractive candidate for automation with a high potential for payback. Their biggest challenge in automating was utilizing a relatively small space to meet production goals.
“We took the challenge; they produced a PO and we delivered a system that exceeded their expectations and exceeded their ROI expectation providing a payback in less than one year. We are now building multiple lines per year for them to further expand their automation. This was a very rewarding opportunity for all parties involved.”— Ryan Park VP Sales and Marketing, SPI Automation
You can get a better idea of the kinds of automation solutions we’ve designed across various industries in the video below.
With over 25 years of experience in the automation industry, we have broken down the process, step-by-step, to guide you on your journey. Keep in mind that while customized automated solutions don’t happen overnight, by beginning with a broad overview of your process, SPI Automation can be your partner in reaching and exceeding your production goals.