Manufacturing automation started as a way to increase productivity and reduce cost in operations. But today, it’s so much more, shifting focus to increasing quality and flexibility in the manufacturing process. In fact, as the norm in manufacturing shifts to small production runs, fast shipping, and nimble operations, the difference between success and failure lies with robotics and automation.
Already, more than a third of companies plan to use robotics and automation to improve supply chain efficiencies. This growing popularity could see robotics and manufacturing automation used in more than half of companies within just five years. Implementing these new technologies, however, means first understanding what they are, what they aren’t, and how they impact human headcount.
A Brief Introduction to Manufacturing Automation
Let’s start by defining what manufacturing automation is: the use of control systems—computers or robots—and information technologies instead of humans for handling different processes and machineries. That may sound like it puts multiple human jobs on the line, but that’s not necessarily the case. While industrial automation’s early purpose was to increase productivity in manufacturing—machines can work 24/7 and don’t need weekends, sick days, holidays, or paid vacation—the focus has now shifted instead to increasing quality and flexibility.
While initially used for large-scale homogeneous production, industrial automation in manufacturing is becoming far more scalable and customizable, allowing companies to select only what they need to implement a cost-effective solution.
Humans and Robots: Colleagues or Replacements?
With all the good that manufacturing automation can do for operations, there is the underlying concern that the increase of robots will put human jobs at risk. Fortunately, while the new technologies do replace humans when it comes to many mundane, tedious, and repetitive actions, at the same time, these technologies are freeing people up for other opportunities. The technologies require programming and building, while also allowing a company to be more competitive, leading to growth and additional human headcount to handle the uptick in business volume.
Many experts are dubbing this new collaboration between human and automation as the next step in the industrial revolution. This new phase, Industry 5.0, is all about bringing back the human touch, understanding what should be automated and what should not. Manufacturers must understand where automation will add the most value to their processes, not simply add automation for automation’s sake. For example, automated inspections are generally more efficient and more effective than human inspection. When humans’ work is integrated with robots, the best quality product reaches the market.
Get Started With Automation and PositiveVision
There’s no doubt that the appetite for automation is growing to the point where it’s not knowing whether or not you need to automate but choosing which technology solutions you need for the best result.
Automating any manufacturing process can be a daunting task, but if you have the right equipment and software, industrial automation is a much easier implementation than you might expect. Whether you’re looking to connect an existing system to industrial automation, or build your industrial automation process from the ground up, you’ll have greater success with the right software partner on hand.
PositiveVision has been the manufacturing software partner of choice, adding automation in the greater Chicago area for nearly two decades. Let us help you move your manufacturing business forward from where you are today to the automation solutions you need for tomorrow. Schedule some time with one of our automation experts now.