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How control and automation can impact manufacturing efficiency

There’s no doubt that AI and robotics are changing the manufacturing world, making factories safer and more efficient and allowing production to be scaled up and down more easily.

The key to unlocking these benefits is having effective control and automation systems. But what exactly does “control and automation” mean for manufacturers?

Put simply; automation refers to any process where technology is used in place of humans to complete the operation. Any repeatable multi-step process can be automated, meaning much of a factory’s equipment can be programmed to perform automatically, removing the need for humans to operate machinery.

Control refers to the system behind the automation – the interface allowing you to manage and modify the automated processes. It ensures complete safety for all staff involved in production.

Impact on manufacturing efficiency

Implementing effective control and automation systems can impact your factory’s efficiency in several ways.

Increase productivity

Control and automation technologies enable faster and more efficient production processes, leading to increased productivity. Automated systems can perform repetitive tasks precisely and consistently, reducing human error and enhancing overall manufacturing efficiency.

Robots don’t need rest breaks, so they can run around the clock during busy periods, ensuring peaks in demand can be met without the need for additional staff.

Improve quality control

Machines have far greater precision than humans, which is highly beneficial where weights and measurements have to be exact.

By eliminating variations caused by human error, control and automation technologies enhance overall quality control and reduce product defects or inconsistencies. Removing humans from your production lines also reduces the risk of contamination.

robots in a car plant. robotic arms in a car plant

Enhance production speed and volume

Machines can work much faster and more accurately than humans, making the production line quicker and more efficient. This increased speed allows for faster production cycles, reducing lead times and enabling manufacturers to meet customer demands more efficiently.

Machines can operate around the clock when timescales are tight, eliminating the need to take on additional workers during peak times. Because of the speed and manufacturing efficiency of automated machinery, production volume is substantially increased.

Reduce downtime

Unplanned downtime significantly impacts manufacturers, throwing production schedules into disarray and causing unforeseen costs.

Control systems can monitor and diagnose equipment performance, enabling proactive maintenance and reducing the risk of unexpected breakdowns. By minimising unplanned downtime, you can optimise your production schedules and maximise overall equipment effectiveness.

Maximise resources

Automation allows you to operate with a smaller workforce, reducing wage bills, recruitment costs and overtime payments.

Effective systems also allow you to optimise resources such as raw materials and energy. By precisely controlling variables such as material flow, temperature, and power consumption, you can minimise waste and maximise resource efficiency.

Fewer errors and less waste

Unlike people, machines aren’t susceptible to tiredness, forgetfulness or misjudgement, which means fewer errors on the production line.

Machines also operate with a higher level of accuracy, making them ideal for tasks that require absolute precision. This reduces raw material waste and ensures fewer defective or unsellable products.

Enhance Safety

Accidents happen regardless of how many health and safety policies and procedures you implement. Where machinery is involved, this can result in serious injury and even fatalities.

By leaving hazardous tasks to robots, you reduce the risk of workplace injury, creating a safer working environment. You also reduce the time employees spend on dusty or noisy production lines.

Streamline supply chain management

Control and automation technologies facilitate seamless integration and coordination between different stages of the manufacturing process.

This integration enables real-time data exchange, streamlined inventory management, and better communication among suppliers, manufacturers, and customers, resulting in a more efficient supply chain.

Accurate reporting and data-driven decision making

Control and automation systems track and record data in real-time, giving you more accurate and up-to-date reports. They generate vast amounts of data that can be analysed to gain valuable insights into production processes.

By leveraging data analytics and machine learning, you can make data-driven decisions to optimise operations, identify bottlenecks, and implement continuous improvements.

You’ll have real-time access to information about how your systems are running, where faults or bottlenecks are occurring, and where waste can be eliminated.

Flexibility and Scalability

Automated manufacturing systems are designed to be flexible and scalable, accommodating changes in production volume, product variety, or process requirements. Machinery can be reprogrammed quickly – often without any production downtime – providing a more flexible and agile approach to production.

This flexibility will enable you to respond quickly to market demands, adapt to changing customer needs, and scale production as required.

Cost Savings

While the initial investment in control and automation technologies may be significant, the return on investment often outweighs the costs.

By improving manufacturing efficiency, reducing waste, and minimising errors, you can achieve significant long-term cost savings, leading to improved profitability and competitiveness in the market.

Getting started with control and automation

The good news is that implementing control and automation doesn’t require a huge overhaul of your operations.

You can start with new installations or focus on the processes where equipment is most unreliable or keeps breaking down.

At AES, we offer free site surveys to assess your production process to help you fully understand which areas will benefit most from control and automation enhancements.

After completing our assessment, we provide a free quote and a top-level overview of those processes where an updated control and automation intervention can provide your business with the greatest financial impact.

The next step is the detailed design and programming process, where we start programming the logic to control the production process, configuring existing software, and manufacturing the control panels.

We favour technology with simple, user-friendly dashboard-style interfaces and clear graphical representations of the production process so your team can get to grips with the new system quickly and easily.

The final stage is the build, installation and testing. But don’t worry – we won’t leave you there. We’ll provide full training on how to use the interface and create a bespoke user manual.

Contact us to discover how your factory can benefit from control and automation.

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