Factory automation refers to technologies that automate industrial production processes to maximize efficiency and increase output at lower costs. It also discards human involvement in manufacturing operations to produce a more consistent quality of product. As such, it’s a key component of Industry 4.0 and is changing the way companies operate their factories.
A number of different solutions can be used to automate an entire process or a single step. These may include computer-controlled machinery, programmable logic controllers (PLC), robots, and other equipment that is designed to replace human operators. These systems can work continuously, allowing them to handle large volumes of product in short periods of time — making them perfect for repetitive tasks that would be tedious or dangerous for humans.
The type of automation system that a company uses depends on the needs and requirements of its particular factory. The more advanced solutions allow a fully automated production line that runs without any human intervention from start to finish. These are referred to as “lights out” factories. The most advanced automated production lines combine multiple machines in a row that are designed to perform specific functions in the production sequence. This is done through a transfer system and electrical control systems that link the individual machines together. The only roles reserved for human employees are for monitoring, supervision, and maintenance of the automated equipment.
One of the biggest benefits of factory automation is improved productivity. Automated processes have the potential to run 24/7/365, and streamlined industrial production can lead to increased savings on labor, materials, and energy costs. Additionally, automated production processes are often more repeatable than those performed by humans, which can reduce errors and improve overall quality.
Another advantage of automation is increased safety. Machines that are computer-controlled can be programmed to stop automatically if they encounter an object in their path. This can help to prevent injuries or even deaths. Additionally, robots and other automated devices can be used in hazardous locations or with hazardous materials, eliminating the need for employees to be in these potentially dangerous environments.
Companies that invest in factory automation can free up employee time to focus on other important business tasks. Instead of spending their time tracking inventory or coordinating schedules, employees can work on building new products and growing their business.
While automation is an inevitable part of the future, it must be carefully implemented to reap its many benefits. Excessive automation can actually hinder productivity if it’s not planned for properly. This is why at Tulip, we advocate for an Augmented Lean approach to digitalization where businesses plan how they can best use technology while balancing the need for humans to do more complex work.
Companies across the globe are working to create revolutionary automation solutions that can improve industrial production. Many of these are global leaders with a diverse range of backgrounds, but all share the same goal – to create environmentally friendly technology that can help to make factories work more efficiently.