Manufacturing automation uses machinery and software to automate the work tasks a factory performs when making physical products. It’s an important strategy for manufacturers to consider because it can reduce the need for human labor, which saves on payroll expenses and related management costs. It can also help reduce waste and increase efficiencies. The benefits of automated manufacturing can include higher quality output for less money, faster production and safer working conditions.
Depending on the type of manufacturing, some processes may be fully automated or semi-automated while others are only partially automated. For example, an automated production line consists of a series of machines each designed to perform one specific task. Raw work pieces enter one end of the line, move through each machine station in a predetermined order and emerge from the other end as finished goods. This kind of manufacturing automation is often referred to as “fixed” automation because it is set up for long production runs and may go years between changeovers.
Other types of manufacturing automation include flexible systems. These use machine tools with computer programs to control the machines. The computer programs can be changed offline without affecting ongoing operations, meaning that a manufacturer can upload new product designs to an existing piece of equipment without shutting it down and performing manual changeovers. This is a key feature for some manufacturing industries that need to adapt their output quickly, such as the consumer packaged goods industry which needs to respond to customer demand for different product styles.
In addition to these kinds of manufacturing automation, some companies also use additive manufacturing. Also known as 3D printing, this technique allows a company to make parts and products that would be difficult or impossible to make with conventional techniques. This is a popular method for customising manufactured goods or creating prototypes for new products.
While the benefits of automation are clear, it’s important to understand the risks as well. For instance, if the machine breaks down or is not programmed properly, the results can be disastrous. Therefore, the implementation of any automation must be done carefully and in conjunction with a well-planned risk management plan.
The best way to mitigate these risks is to integrate the system with a well-developed ERP solution that is capable of monitoring and managing production progress and the associated inventory movements, WIP manufacturing costs and operation status. This can allow a business to make more informed decisions about the use of automation, and to ensure that their supply chain is optimized for efficiency.
Infor VISUAL is an ERP solution that is specifically tailored for the needs of the manufacturing industry. It offers an integrated suite of applications that supports the entire business process from sourcing and planning to production, sales and delivery. It is scalable and features tools to support business growth, such as enhanced inventory visibility and real-time reporting. It is also able to track supplier performance and compliance. This enables businesses to make improvements in their production, while increasing their customer satisfaction rates.