How To Build an Automation System

As more and more manufacturers and processors – large and small – are assessing the benefits of deploying advanced pick-and-place and workholding technologies in their part-moving applications, more and more are also asking, “What do I need to know if I want to incorporate an automation system into my operation?”

Here are some things to consider if you are ready to build your automation system, whether it be adding high-speed programmable rotary tables, linear indexing conveyors, pick-and-place units or the increasingly popular collaborative “cobot” systems that require a human technician to work side-by-side with a robot:

  • What Do You Want To Accomplish? The most common motivator in the transition from manual part-handling systems to automated ones is quantity, as in the number of parts that need to be moved in a certain period of time has begun to exceed the capabilities of human technicians. In addition to increasing throughput rates, automation will also usually result in much higher accuracy and overall product quality.
  • Don’t Fear Advanced Technologies. People hear the word “robot” or “cobot” and immediately think “unemployment.” In reality, the switch from a strictly manual operation to a cobot-style or fully automated robotic system is not a job-killer; in fact, it can be a job-enhancer. Many companies that are moving into automation are also growing companies. This means they still need a robust work force, and the advanced technologies they are beginning to use can create opportunities for their employees to move into a more skilled position that is both higher paying and more interesting.
  • The Bottom Line. An unavoidable piece in the automation equation is economics, with all companies needing to satisfy budgetary demands while optimizing their bottom lines. Before committing to an automation system, perform a cost-benefit analysis that compares the average cost for a human to perform a task manually versus what a machined index table or rotary inspection table can do. If you get a better ROI from automating a process, it makes sense to add an automation system. In fact, we’re finding that the ROI on the purchase, installation and operation of an automated system can be as low as six months with most averaging between one and two years.
  • Find The Perfect Partner. Acquiring an automation system is the same as purchasing a car or house: due diligence must be performed before the best solution can be identified. In this case, talk to people who’ve already committed to automation, attend trade shows, consult trade associations, etc. All have the experience to offer invaluable advice, from whether rotary or linear indexing is best for your operation to who the most reputable machine builders are.

 The last – and most important – thing to remember is that identifying, purchasing, installing and operating the best automation system for your unique and specific needs is a process. It’s not something that can be done overnight. Sure, you might run into some dead ends, experience frustration and even ask, “Why am I doing this?” but if the proper steps are taken along the way, the result will be a system that optimizes product quality, employee performance, operating costs and ROI.

Contact us today to share your application goals with our team of experts!

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