Automation is becoming a highly sought after way to increase productivity and reduce costs. It’s especially useful (and welcome) to replace redundant, tedious end of line operations. As the use of automation in the manufacturing industry continues to grow, so does the safety, ease of integration, flexibility and affordability of the equipment. Even with all of the recent advances and information available, investing in automation solutions can still be an extremely intimidating process.
Considering automation? Ask yourself these questions
How adaptable are your current processes to automation?
Before you begin to compare different automation options, it’s extremely important to make sure you have a thorough understanding of your current processes. Certain complex packaging applications may be too difficult to automate, leaving you with inconsistent results and more waste. On the other hand, you may find there are opportunities for implementation of low risk, inexpensive equipment that will immediately improve efficiency.
How flexible does your packaging line need to be?
It’s important to take into consideration the number of products and packaging sizes that will be ran on the line. This will help in deciding on the level of automation and integration you require. In some instances, a semi-automated solution may be a better fit than a fully automated one.
What is the return on investment for this automation project?
This is typically one of the first thoughts when considering automating a new or current process: How long will it take to get back our initial equipment investment? Due to advances in technology and automation becoming more of a necessity, many companies are able to see ROI within a few years and in some cases, months. Having an estimate of your total production costs to compare to the cost of an automated solution will assist in gaining insight into what you can expect. Our automation engineers will be able to help you develop these numbers.
How does automation support your company’s needs?
While there are many reasons to automate, try to focus on a few that are most important to your facility. Are you solely looking for costs savings or are you more concerned about quality improvements? Out of the many benefits of automation, you should be able to pinpoint your motivating factors.
Will automation generate more productivity and create capacity?
Packaging automation can increase your throughput and remove bottle necks. If you are paying your employees $20 an hour and they are spending more than 40% of their day packaging, there is definitely opportunity to automate that process. Keep your skilled laborers running the equipment that is making your product, not spending their time putting things into boxes. Your packaging line should be able to package at 10-30% more than your production line. In some cases, this may require two machines.
What is your strategy for automation growth?
Knowing where your facility is on the automation path and determining where you would eventually like to be is essential. Use our Automation Road Map as a guide to help determine a strategy that will get you to an optimal efficiency point. Deciding where to start automating and when to upgrade requires taking into consideration the cost, productivity gain, and long-term benefits.
What performance goals could automation help you achieve?
If you’re considering automation, sign up for an Automation Assessment with our engineering team. Our team will help you identify opportunities to automate while taking into consideration the value of achieving your automation goals vs implementation costs.