Keeping up with growing consumer demands is one of the biggest challenges for businesses in the manufacturing industry. The larger the volume of products that have to be rolled out of the factory, the more likely it is to have defects in batches, which often leads to wasted resources. There is also the increased costs related to scaling up the equipment and increasing the manpower necessary to accommodate the larger production volumes.
Thanks to advancements in robotics and information technology, however, cutting down potential losses caused by production-related issues is not only possible but also more cost-effective than ever. Automated assembly uses a combination of programming, precision motion solutions, and advanced monitoring and measuring technologies to keep production lines running efficiently. But what exactly does automated assembly mean for businesses?
Fewer Defects Caused by Human Error
A lot of factory defects in traditional production assemblies can be attributed to lack of precision and consistency during the assembly process. While errors during the earliest stages of production can often be prevented from becoming a major issue, defects that occur in the later stages of the manufacturing process can result in major losses, especially if the defective products make it past production stage and reach the consumers.
Automated assembly relies on smart and high-precision technologies to carry out the same tasks as human laborers do, but with a much narrower margin for error. For example, an automated drill mounted on a platform that is moved by a highly precise XY table and guided by a series of cameras and laser sensors will always be able to drill at the exact same spot on any workpiece, efficiently preparing it for the stage in the assembly line.
Fatigue is one of the most limiting factors of human labor in assembly lines. It’s not possible for a human laborer to work round the clock without taking breaks, and you can’t expect them to be consistently productive if they are deprived of sleep and rest. Workers must stop working at some point, which means the assembly process will frequently be interrupted. There’s also the fact that human laborers will become sick from time to time, preventing them from working for days or even weeks at a time.
With automated assembly, downtimes can be reduced to a minimum. Machines do not need lunch breaks or sick leaves, which means lengthier production times are possible. Furthermore, today’s automated assembly solutions rely on industrial-grade components that are specially designed to reduce the risks of equipment breakdown. In case something still manages to break down, the issue can still be fixed within a matter of hours or even minutes.
Many people think that spending resources on the hardware and software necessary for automating the assembly process can be costly, but it’s actually the exact opposite in most cases. With purely human labor, companies have to worry about salaries, benefits, increasing the pay every now and then, and even providing compensation in case of accidents. Furthermore, the recruitment process of qualified individuals may take a long time, which means having a fully-staffed production line could take a while to accomplish, especially for newer companies.
On the other hand, acquiring equipment and software only require the occasional maintenance fees and upgrade costs. Repairs and replacement parts generally cost less per year than providing compensation for a full assembly team. Add the fact that you reduce the costs related to defects and downtimes and it’s easy to see why automating the assembly process is a worthy investment.
Back then, automated assembly was viewed as something exclusive to large companies with plenty of resources to spare. However, developments in robotics and other automation technologies over the years have made it possible for even small businesses to take full advantage of the benefits of automated assembly. Given enough time, automated assembly may eventually become the norm when it comes to production, even for the smallest manufacturing startup companies.