Essentials for Success in Preparing for Automation
Costs and Challenges with Adding Automation
Adding automation can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. With the help of an integration partner, identifying the right solutions and catering an automation system to the needs of your facility can be simple.
To keep the price down and unexpected challenges to a minimum, Alliance Automation insists on connecting with the customer to ensure that all expectations and requirements are defined and all options confirmed. By spending time in the process step, the total cost of the solution is kept down by keeping change orders and modifications to a minimum.
Adoption within your organization is also key to a seamless integration. Sometimes there is a concern among employees that automation is going to take away jobs. In almost all cases of automation, the goal is to replace labor, but generally, it’s replacing labor that is not available to manufacturers. Automation adds the ability to streamline processes and allow for lights-out operations.
In the rare case that automation does replace labor, that labor is not terminated. Rather, the employees are repurposed and moved to another part of the facility to provide value in another area of production.
More efficient production means getting more work done, which leads to happy customers and more orders. Adding automation isn’t a zero sum prospect, it’s about cultivating a more efficient process. The right solution has a price, but it costs you nothing!
Communication Is Key
An integration partner is a valuable asset when preparing for automation, but the key to getting the most out of the partnership is communication. Avoiding “yes men” in the world of automation is important. If they are too agreeable, you may find yourself with equipment issues or integration challenges.
Open conversation about critical elements of a project will help you and your automation partner find the right solutions. Keeping the lines of communication open means avoiding pitfalls and potential over-purchasing, as well as staying on task with a moving target.
Future-Proofing Your Facility
While adding automation to your facility goes best when it focuses on specific challenges, leveraging automation can help future-proof your business, as well. Automation prepares a facility for the future by showing possible customers that your business cares about providing the best product possible with efficiency. It also implies a level of care by the ownership that they can meet production schedules, encourages workers around the automation to continue education and skill-building, and increases the ability to incorporate changing product mixes.
A large part of this future-proofing concept can be focused on design for manufacturability and staying competitive as the industry trends toward high-mix/low-volume production. Having the ability to adapt quickly with automation allows a facility pivot for customers as their needs change. The level of commitment required for automation integration also conveys a level of trust with prospective customers that your facility will be around into the future.
Preparing for Automation Essentials
The biggest cost in adding automation is not doing it. There is virtually no concern of falling into a sunk cost scenario if automation is approached with a plan. Hashing out exactly what challenges need to be solved with automation means you can focus on the precise solution and predict future needs.
Communication – a discussion about your automation project requirements, expectations, and problems you are trying to solve – whether it’s with your team or an integration partner, is vital to adding automation as it opens channels to help get challenges solved, as well as prevents scope-creep with your application.
Any solid automation partner will set expectations in an automation timeline from the initial budgetary proposal. As discussions continue the time frame will get clearer, as well as an understanding of factory acceptance tests (FATs) and time frame requirements to which the customer needs to adhere.
Automation is essential for adding efficiency to and future success of any facility. Going in prepared and partnering with a quality integration partner will virtually guarantee automation success.