Why Automating Even a Part of Your Production is Worth It
Within an industrial or production environment, automation is a concept referring to the use of computers or robots to control processes, monitor mission-critical equipment and more – all to reduce the amount of work required of humans in an environment so they’re free to focus more on those tasks that truly need them. The components that make up your typical automation system are designed to replace the types of repetitive and mechanical tasks that are usually performed by a single person in the manufacturing process.
Gone are the days when people assumed industrial automation was all about replacing human employees. In reality, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s about supporting and empowering them, allowing them to do more with less and creating safer and more productive workplaces at the same time.
According to one recent study, the automation industry is expected to generate about $214 billion worth of revenue worldwide by as soon as the end of 2021. The process automation segment alone is predicted to hit $83 billion in value. We’re quickly reaching a point where “smart factories” will become the new norm – where robots quickly, accurately and consistently complete tasks that formerly required humans so that the humans themselves are free to innovate without restriction.
But at the same time, that doesn’t mean you suddenly need to re-think your very business from the ground up. Is it possible to build a fully functioning “smart production line” and embrace Industry 4.0 with open arms? Of course – but automating even a part of your production is still worth it for a wide range of different reasons, all of which are worth exploring.
Unlocking the Benefits of Automation, One Step at a Time
One of the major reasons why automating even a part of your production is a good idea has to do with the incredibly high levels of productivity that this decision can unlock for your business.
Even if you were to hire hundreds of employees to work all day, every day in 24 hour shifts, your production lines will still have to go down some time. Maintenance dictates periods of planned downtime and there’s always another holiday right around the corner. With an exclusively human workforce, getting to a point where you have 100% production up-time isn’t just difficult – it’s largely impossible.
But by automating some of those core functions, you can get as close to this as possible by embracing devices like robots that can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. These types of automated assets and robots instantly become the best types of employees – the ones that don’t eat, don’t get tired, never have to sleep and never take a vacation.
More importantly, they also don’t let their minds wander on the job. They don’t get bored, suffer from low engagement or become “disenfranchised” with their work in any way. So not only can automation make sure that these important processes are happening around the clock, but it also does so in a way that reduces errors and helps enhance quality levels at the exact same time.
Creating a Safer Workplace
For many organizations, one of the most important reasons to automate even a part of your production line has to do with how this decision can dramatically enhance the safety of your human employees as well.
Though one production process will vary greatly from the next depending on the business and what is being produced, the odds are high that at least some portions of your own process would be considered dangerous. Maybe human employees have to work in an environment with poor air quality or extreme temperatures. Maybe they’re being asked to lift heavy objects or work around potentially dangerous chemicals.
Even if you were to only automate these particularly dangerous parts of the process, you’d still benefit enormously because you’re removing humans entirely from hazardous situations. Not only that, but experts agree that automated systems usually respond faster to emergencies thanks to the real-time monitoring that they bring with them.
Going beyond the fact that a safety-focused automation initiative can reduce costs (remember that businesses in the United States alone spend $170 billion per year on worker-related injury or illness, as per the Department of Labor), you again enjoy increased efficiency as well. Plus, making an employee’s job objectively safer shows that you truly care about them and their well-being, which can create a happier and more engaged workforce as well.
Getting Ready For an Automation-Driven Future
In the end, understand that this transition into a fully automated, entirely digitized manufacturing and production process isn’t something that needs to happen overnight. As is true with most things, success to that end is going to be less about any one major move that a business makes and is more about a series of smaller and more strategic ones.
The goal of any automation platform is to bring with it autonomous decision-making, to help organizational leaders better monitor their equipment and processes in real-time, and to create as much value as possible for a business. This can and likely should happen on a small scale at first, thanks to a series of precise investments that slowly build to something far greater as a collective than any one of them could be on their own.
According to another recent study, there are expected to be more than 64 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things by as soon as 2025. There were 5.8 billion enterprise gadgets on the IoT alone in 2020 – a massive 21% increase from just one year prior.
The point here is that even major digital transformations have to start somewhere, and that “somewhere” is often much smaller than most people realize. That’s why automating even a part of your production will be more than worth it in the long run. Once you take that critical first step, you have a rock-solid foundation upon which to build from in the months and years ahead.
Let’s Get Started
To find out how you can implement automation and robotics in your manufacturing operations to enhance worker safety, contact JHFOSTER today. Our automation experts can help you find the best way to improve your company’s worker safety.