To optimize their profitability and use the full potential of their workforce, many manufacturing companies have equipped themselves with automation. Although automation has many advantages, it is also subject to certain constraints. In this article, we provide an overview of the main challenges encountered in automation projects and we recommend some practical advice to help you prepare for your future projects.
Automation: A Matter of Costs and Profitability
Your strategic planning must prioritize your projects: it is according to your achievable and evolving objectives that you will be able to identify the beneficial impact created by the implementation of automated operations. While automation is beneficial from an operations standpoint and results in improved profitability, it requires significant upfront investment. So don’t hesitate to invest a little time as it is essential to define your needs beforehand: choose the right equipment, from the right supplier, at the right time. In principle, the higher the quality of the equipment, the longer its lifespan should be. The same applies to the quality of the after-sales service: that is why the choice of supplier and the guarantees offered are important. For example, a local supplier will allow a better reactivity in case of technical problems.
Also consider the substantial costs that will follow the installation of automated equipment, including the implementation of their operation and the regular maintenance of the machines. Operating and maintaining industrial automation systems requires a skilled workforce, which often leads to training needs. Most of the time, operator training on new equipment takes place after installation. Unfortunately, the mobility of the workforce does not always allow for the proper transfer of the knowledge acquired in the use of the machines. This is why regular training is necessary for the concerned employees to keep their skills up to date. The documentation that accompanies this training is a guarantee of success for the collective knowledge and demonstrates a collaborative culture of the company.
Reliability and Security
Industrial automation systems are mostly reliable. However, they can be subject to breakdowns or malfunctions, which can lead to production delays and additional costs. The maintenance and upgrade costs of automated equipment determine the optimization of the machine park and maximize your return on investment.
Preventive maintenance is the complete overhaul or replacement of equipment before it fails. It is performed when the equipment is in good working order. By identifying the first signs of a defect, it reduces the additional cost of spare parts and minimizes the risk of unexpected breakdowns. In the manufacturing context, it has a positive influence on productivity and is an appropriate solution: it helps operators to maintain the performance and quality of production by acting on the lifespan of the equipment.
Any industrial system presents risks for the safety of workers in case of misuses. It is therefore important to put in place adequate security measures. A safety analysis is part of the prerequisites before the implementation of an automation system. The devices can be electrical, mechanical, visual, etc. In all cases, they must be adapted to each situation and meet the current standards.
Resistance to change could also be a risk to your automation project. This is why a strategy of training and integration of the stakeholders must be planned throughout the project. This is to reduce misunderstandings and to encourage everyone to adhere to the new technologies implemented.
With this article, you now have the main arguments that often hinder your decision to automate part or all of your manufacturing production. Even if automation sometimes presents certain constraints, our experts have often found that a good preparation often defuses the main fears. With automated equipment, you will achieve your long-term strategic objectives and your return on investment will be measured primarily through the profitability of your production line. Operations management still requires human interaction. We invite you to contact our Merkur experts who will be happy to assist you in your project.
MERKUR is a firm of experts in manufacturing performance and innovation and has been doing so for over 25 years. From strategy to execution, its sole objective is to make Quebec’s manufacturing companies more efficient by offering innovative solutions in product development, operational excellence, manufacturing engineering, automation and smart factory. Merkur is proud to contribute to innovation and productivity in Quebec!
KHROME PRODUCT TRANSPORT is a manufacturing integrator located in Drummondville specialized in the design and manufacturing of train car interiors and exteriors. Its strength comes from its great engineering capacity and its manufacturing agility. Among its customer portfolio, there are major manufacturers such as Alstom, Bombardier Transportation and Kawasaki Rail Car.
SYNKRO is a software developed by Merkur and designed specifically for high-performance manufacturers. It collects, classifies, and distributes the right data to the right people at the right time. SYNKRO gives you a real vision of your operations. SYNKRO is the software solution that finally connects your floor and your offices