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Automation in Manufacturing | StartProto

Manufacturing Automation: How Technology is Revolutionizing the Industry

Manufacturing Automation: How Technology is Revolutionizing the Industry

Manufacturing has come a long way since the days of manual labor and assembly lines.

Today, digital transformation and smart manufacturing technology have revolutionized the industry by introducing automation.

automation in manufacturing industry to improve manufacturing tasks and repetitive tasks

Automation has become a key driver in manufacturing, allowing companies to increase productivity, automate tasks, reduce costs, and improve product quality.

Here's a closer look at how automation is changing the face of manufacturing.

What is Automation in Manufacturing?

Automation in manufacturing refers to using technology to automate systems, processes, tasks, and systems.

This can include everything from robots and machines to software and advanced sensors, to ultimately reduce manual labor, and reduce human errors on factory floors and beyond.

robotic process automation, using industrial robots for manufacting automation

Automation aims to reduce the need for human intervention, increase efficiency, and improve product quality.

What Are the Three Types of Manufacturing Automation?

There are three types of manufacturing automation because each type serves a specific purpose in streamlining the production process, depending on the manufacturing industry's specific requirements.

These types of automation are fixed, programmable, and flexible.

Fixed automation, also known as "hard automation," is used in automated production facilities where the sequence of processing operations is fixed by the equipment configuration [1].

On the other hand, programmable automation allows for changes in the sequence of operations by reprogramming the equipment [3].

Finally, flexible automation is designed to be easily and quickly reconfigured to accommodate different products, production volumes, and operational sequences [2].

By utilizing these different types of automation in the manufacturing industry, companies can increase production volume, reduce unit cost, or often both.

Fixed Automation

Fixed automation, or hard automation, is used for the high-volume production of a specific product.

The equipment is designed to perform specific operations and cannot be easily reprogrammed or reconfigured to perform another task.

Examples of fixed automation include machining transfer lines found in the automotive industry, automatic assembly machines, and certain chemical processes.

Programmable Automation

This type of automation is more flexible than fixed automation.

The equipment is designed to perform a range of tasks and can be reprogrammed or reconfigured to perform different operations.

Programmable automation is characterized by high investment for general-purpose equipment. Its flexible process allows for changes in product configuration and low production output. Programmable automation is well-suited for batch production runs.

Programmable automation is commonly used in batch production, where the same equipment produces different products.

Flexible Automation

The flexible automation type of automation is the most versatile of the three for any manufacturing business.

Flexible automation uses computer-controlled equipment and material handling systems that can be easily reprogrammed or reconfigured to perform different tasks for different production lines.

Flexible automation is commonly used in high-mix, low-volume production, where the same equipment is used to produce various products with various production lines and different configurations.

Smart Factories For Industrial Automation In Manufacturing

Smart factories are digitized manufacturing facilities that use automating processes, connected devices, artificial intelligence, innovative machinery, and production systems to collect and share data continuously for all manufacturing processes.

This automatic data entry is then used to inform decisions to improve processes and address any issues that may arise. These factories use advanced process automation technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning to analyze data, drive automated processes, and learn as they go.[1][4]

These types of factories employ manufacturing automation by using automation technology to streamline production and cut costs for on-demand production, including monitoring their floor-level production, and manage their inventory levels for inventory management automatically.

Key benefits of automation technology in smart factories include using robotics, automated storage and retrieval systems, and automated guided vehicles to compat labor shortage and manual labor, as well as complete complex tasks for even large volume production.

These technologies are used to perform repetitive and tedious tasks or dangerous activities that would be difficult or unsafe for humans to do.

These new factories also use digital technologies such as the industrial Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and Big Data analytics to connect and integrate different parts of the manufacturing process, making it easier to manage and optimize production.

Benefits of Automation in Manufacturing

Automation in manufacturing offers a wide range of benefits that can help the entire business stay competitive in today's fast-paced market.

production processes using automated manufacturing systems to improve manufacturing process automation

Here are a few examples of some of the key advantages of automation:

  1. Increased Productivity

Manufacturing automation can increase manufacturing process productivity by reducing the time to complete tasks.

Robots and machines can work 24/7 without getting tired, taking breaks, or making mistakes which can be expected from a human workforce managing the production line. 

This means employing industrial automation allows companies to complete tasks much faster than humans, which can help companies produce more products in less time in the same product style.

  1. Improved Quality

Manufacturing automation can also help improve product quality by reducing the risk of human error through automated processes. 

Machines and robots can perform highly precise tasks, ensuring products are manufactured to specifications.

This can help reduce defects in batch production and improve customer satisfaction.

  1. Reduced Costs

Manufacturing automation can reduce costs by reducing the need for human labor.

Machines and robots can perform tasks that would otherwise require human labor, which can help reduce labor costs. 

Additionally, automation can help reduce the amount of waste produced, which can help reduce material costs.

  1. Increased Safety

Automation can also help increase safety in manufacturing by reducing the need for humans to perform dangerous tasks. 

Robots and machines can perform tasks that would otherwise be hazardous to humans, reducing the risk of workplace injuries and accidents.

Examples of Automation in Manufacturing

manufacturing automation tools for manufacturing business automation, startproto resource

There are many examples of manufacturing automation in use today, including:

  1. Robotic Assembly Lines

Robotic assembly lines are used to automate the assembly of products. Robots can perform tasks such as welding, painting, and packaging, reducing the need for human labor through programmable logic controllers.

  1. Automated Inspection Systems

Automated inspection systems use sensors and cameras to inspect products for defects. 

This can help improve product quality control while reducing the manual processes involved in the final inspection process.

  1. CNC Machines

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines are used to automate parts manufacturing. 

These machines limit equipment needed, and use computer programs to control the movement of tools, reducing the need for human labor.

Conclusion: Manufacturing Automation

In conclusion, automation is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry by increasing machine vision productivity, improving product quality, limiting the need for manually swap tooling,  reducing costs, and increasing safety. 

electromechanical systems with human machine interfaces for entire supply chain automation tools, reducing manual labour

As technology continues to advance, we can expect to see even more automation in manufacturing in the future. 

Companies that embrace manufacturing automation will be better positioned to stay competitive and succeed in today's fast-paced market.

StartProto is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) automated manufacturing platform that allows small and mid-sized machine shops to improve efficiency through workflow optimization and automated inventory, routing, and scheduling.

StartProto's manufacturing automation tools aim to make production processes smoother and more efficient through a central computer system for managing manufacturing processes.

Operators on the shop floor can stay connected with real-time data management through StartProto's cloud platform, which allows real-time production management, inventory management, and job tracking.

StartProto aims to simplify supply chain production processes through automated manufacturing and enabling automated systems and create a more enjoyable experience for manufacturers without a high initial investment compared to other tools on the market.

Learn more now.

Greg Finnegan

Growth Lead