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How to review which production processes can be automated

Smart manufacturing has arrived, and many manufacturing businesses are already well on their way to fully automated systems, significantly reducing their assembly time and costs.

Cutting-edge machinery, and technical innovation such as AI, are fast becoming common practice and manufacturers who don't invest are likely to get left behind.

But major upgrades can mean considerable costs. And although they pay off in the long term, they might not be something your business can afford to implement today.

The good news is you may not need a huge investment to make significant improvements to your efficiency. In fact, depending on your products and output rates, some of the latest technologies could even be overkill.

One area all factories can benefit from is automation. And automation doesn't always need to involve expensive upgrades.

It’s likely some of your processes are already automated. But is there more you can do to improve efficiency at all stages of the production line? And how do you recognise where best to implement automation to impact your bottom line?

The easiest way to approach this task is to break it down and look at each stage of your production process.

Planning and stock management

You don't necessarily need a high-end Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to handle operations (although large plants may benefit from using one).

Instead, inventory management software serves well as a central point for tracking stock levels and lets you know when to contact purchasing to order more parts or raw materials – keeping your line production-ready. No more manually updating excel spreadsheets, just a robust automated management system.

Bills of materials (BOM)

Your production team relies on a BOM to complete their job, yet BOMs can quickly change as parts are upgraded or replaced by an alternative – for example, when stocks are discontinued.

As with planning, automated software can help you manage the materials needed with each production run, so you're always prepared and ready.

Manufacturing assembly

Many factories already use technology to help with assembly – moving conveyerbelts, machinery and robots. But are these fully automated, or are you continuing to rely on human input?

Look to automate or semi-automate your assembly line to minimise human errors and speed up the production process wherever possible. By doing so, you'll achieve greater efficiency, which means less downtime and production costs.

Another huge benefit of automating production lines is minimising contamination, particularly important in food manufacturing. The more you reduce human contact with your products, the lower the risk of contamination or infection.

Product packaging

This is often another step in the production process where companies continue to think a human works best. It's not always the case. In fact, product labelling is much more accurate when automated, which means consistency across your products.

Implementing an automated labelling system is a great way to save on costs and up your production speeds.

Pick and pack

Once your products are assembled, how are you packing them ready for storage or shipping? Traditionally, this job was done manually with products and paperwork (such as product instructions or marketing flyers) boxed by hand.

Nowadays, software can easily manage this process in place of humans, automating a once cumbersome task of scanning a product, packing it in a box, taping up and labelling it ready for transit.

Marketing and sales

Automation isn’t limited to the factory floor. Many marketing and sales processes can be automated, ensuring a more efficient and streamlined process for your customers.

Payment can be taken online, with completed orders sent to resource planning and order confirmations sent to customers automatically. Your systems can ‘talk’ to each other, so order updates are automatically sent to customers, stock levels updated and deliveries tracked.

Benefits of control and automation

Not only do control and automation systems help you improve efficiency, increase production output and reduce downtime, but they also help you create a safer working environment. You can read more about the benefits of control and automation here.

Get a free site survey with AES

As a specialist in control and automation in the manufacturing sector, we help businesses review their current processes and pinpoint ways to improve production and optimise efficiency through automation.

Our control and automation service works as follows:

We conduct a free site survey to assess your machinery, systems and processes.

Next, we present our findings and suggested improvements as an overview and quotation.

If you go ahead with the recommendations, we move on to the detailed design and programming phase.

Then we build, test, and install your new systems, and provide full training to help you self-manage.

If you'd like to book your free site survey and learn more about automating your production processes, contact our team today.

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