Automation in Manufacturing: How Technology is Remaking the Industry

Manufacturing Automation: How Technology is Revolutionizing the Industry

The New Industrial Age: Manufacturing Automation & Automated Workflows

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 of change and competitive advantage in manufacturing, allowing companies to increase productivity, automate tasks, reduce costs, and improve product quality.

Here's a closer look at how automation is altering 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 main types of automation in manufacturing, each serving a specific purpose in streamlining the production process, depending on the manufacturing industry's specific requirements. These types are:

  • Fixed: 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].
  • Programmable: On the other hand, programmable automation allows for changes in the sequence of operations by reprogramming the equipment [3].
  • Flexible: 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 common fixed automation applications would 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 also well-suited for batch production runs, where the same equipment produces different products.

Flexible Automation

This 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.

What Are Smart Factories? How to Deploy Industrial Automation In Manufacturing.

Smart factories are manufacturing facilities that use automated machinery, connected devices, artificial intelligence, and digitized production systems to collect and share data continuously across 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]

Smart factories also employ automated manufacturing technology to perform repetitive and tedious tasks or dangerous activities that would be difficult or unsafe for humans to do. In addition to enhancing safety, this streamlines production and cut costs for on-demand production, 

Key advantages of automation technology in smart factories include:

  • monitoring floor-level production
  • managing their inventory levels for inventory management automatically
  • enhancing safety through the use of robotics
  • automated storage and retrieval systems
  • automated guided vehicles to combat labor shortage and manual labor
  • accelerating complex tasks for even large volume production

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.

production processes using automated manufacturing systems to improve manufacturing process automation

Benefits of Automation in Manufacturing

Automation helps the entire business stay competitive in today's fast-paced market. 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 the sorts of mistakes that can be expected from a human workforce managing the production line. 

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

  1. Improved Quality

Automation solutions help to 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 exacting specifications. Automated processes 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 workers. Additionally, automation can help reduce the amount of waste produced, which slashes 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

Here are a few common examples of manufacturing automation opportunities that OEMs, factories, machine shops, and contract manufacturers are taking advantage of today:

  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.

  1. Workflow Automation Software

The future of automation in manufacturing industry facilities isn’t in machinery so much as in software. This next wave of technology promises efficient workflow automation, smooth handoffs from sales to production planning to the factory or shop floor, and more control over (and visibility into) complex production data. Workflow automation solutions like StartProto can boost productivity and eliminate the need for certain administrative roles.

Werner Machine | StartProto Case Study

See StartProto in Action For Werner Machine 

Get Started For Free With Manufacturing Automation Software

This new age of automation has revolutionized 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 advanced technologies like robotics, CNC systems, and workflow automation software will be better positioned to stay competitive and succeed in today's fast-paced market.

StartProto: Cloud Manufacturing Software For Quotes, Materials, Planning, and Execution

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 and dive into the future of automation in manufacturing. It’s free to get started!


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