A series of workstations linked by a transfer system and an electrical control system is known as an automated production line. Each of these workstations performs a specific task or operation and the product is processed at each station with different steps being carried out as it moves along the production line in set sequence.
Following the programmed commands, an automated production line is a process that raw materials enter and finished products leave, with little to no human intervention. The accurate, fast and stable flow of production increases production time and lowers the cost of the manufactured products whilst reducing room for human error and providing a consistent output.
Carrying out drudgery repetitive tasks can be dangerous and mind-numbing, by introducing automation, employees can be upskilled and free from the risk of RSI and staff shortages etc. and robots can also carry out tasks deemed too dangerous for humans, capable of lifting substantial weights and sizes with increased speed and endurance. Allowing employees to become programmers and oversee the machines, giving input only when necessary.
Three systems of automation exist in production; hard automation (also known as ‘fixed automation’), programmable automation and soft automation (also known as ‘flexible automation’). The type of automation to utilise is determined by the product and volume.
There are both advantages and disadvantages of these different types of automation.
- Automated material handling
- Low unit cost
- High production rate
- High initial investment
- Relatively inflexible in accommodating product changes
- Flexible to deal with design variations
- Suitable for batch production
- High investment in general purpose equipment
- Lower production rate than hard automation
- Continuous production of variable mixtures to product
- Flexible to deal with product design variation
- Medium production rate
- High investment
- High unit cost relative to hard automation
Automate or not?
Carefully planned investment in automation can also make for great financial benefits. By reducing labour costs and increasing output, ROI on investments can be paid back within a year or two. Germany has been quick to embrace automation and many companies within the United Kingdom are now taking the plunge and reaping the rewards. Although we are based in Scotland, 90% of our bespoke automated systems are located within England.
Taking into consideration all of the above, it really is a no-brainer that automation is the way forward – disrupt or be disrupted! Although, many manufacturers need to understand how to make automation work for their particular process and consider the various options. You are the expert in your production, we are the automation experts, by fully understanding your process, we can help and advice, allowing you to make a fully informed decision. Our clients become our partners, we work on building trust and relationships, seeing each concept through to installation and after sales training and support.