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Four Use Cases for Intelligent Automation in Manufacturing

Implementing intelligent automation in manufacturing processes is one of the most effective ways to streamline operations and improve efficiency within production. Manufacturers’ digital transformation journeys often begin with automation, allowing them to easily replace time-consuming and tedious manual tasks with automated processes.

As manufacturers’ digital strategies evolve, they start to adopt more advanced manufacturing technologies. These include artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation. The combination of these three technologies is the basis of intelligent automation.

Intelligent automation uses AI and ML to incorporate data analysis and decision-making capabilities into processes that are automated through technologies like robotic process automation (RPA). This is also known as intelligent process automation, in which RPA bots and software intelligence collaborate to optimize production. This often also equates to cost savings and improved product quality for manufacturers. Learn more about how you can improve production with intelligent automation.

Automated Production on the Factory Floor

Perhaps one of the most recognized uses of automation is the presence of robots and collaborative robots (cobots) on the production floor of manufacturing facilities. These robots have helped to automate certain tasks on production lines, or even whole production lines.  

When intelligent automation is introduced into these production environments, smart devices can collect performance data. AI-enabled systems can analyze this data, then make intelligent decisions and implement production changes to improve efficiency among the robot workers. In this way, intelligent automation in manufacturing facilities can lead to lights-out factories where practically no human participation is necessary for production operations to continue.   

Quality Control with Machine Vision

On production lines, machine vision allows mechanical processes and industrial equipment to view the part or product through a digital image, and then analyze and determine the quality based on a set of rules or parameters. If the component meets all qualifications, it continues down the production line. If it has a defect or error, it is automatically removed from the production line.

In the manufacturing environment, machine vision is most often used for visual inspection to detect defects, position and measure parts, and identify, sort, and track products. This is an intelligent automation technology that offers much more reliable quality inspection than human workers.

Machine vision is used in production operations as well as warehouse facilities, mainly for quality assurance with parts and products as well as with shipments and labels. Machine vision uses AI and ML to understand rules and make decisions based on whether something meets those rules. With the rise of intelligent automation in manufacturing, machine vision has become more commonplace in industrial facilities, continuing to improve the quality of manufactured parts and products.

Predictive Analytics for Machine Maintenance and Inventory Management

Manufacturers collect data from machines on the production line, and engineers analyze that data to help create future production and maintenance schedules. With intelligent automation, predictive analytics solutions can take over this task. These solutions analyze historical production data to identify trends and predict necessary output levels.

With this information, manufacturers can more accurately make decisions about production levels and inventory needs. They’ll know when to adjust production output based on predicted demand to ensure they’re manufacturing enough product without creating a surplus that would increase inventory and warehousing costs.

Another benefit of predictive analytics is the ability to accurately predict when machines will need maintenance. Using this information to create machine maintenance schedules helps manufacturers avoid unplanned machine downtime that could disrupt operations. Ensuring machines get proper maintenance also helps to prevent breakdowns and extends the life of critical equipment within manufacturing facilities.

Optimize Operations with Intelligent Workflows

Many manufacturing companies have utilized robotic process automation to automate workflows. These workflows often involve tasks that are repetitive, tedious, and time-consuming for human workers, and result in significant time savings once automated. Intelligent process automation incorporates AI and other smart technologies into these automated workflows.

Rather than just automating manual tasks, intelligent process automation helps manufacturers redesign entire workflows. Automated tasks create a lot of digital data, which AI-enabled systems can effectively analyze, offering insights into workflows. Manufacturers can apply this information to change their processes and create workflows that are optimized for productivity.

Workflows with intelligent automation capabilities equate to significant time savings within companies. Utilizing cognitive technologies such as optical character recognition and natural language processing, several tasks that once required manual interpretation or intervention are now done seamlessly by automated technologies. Aside from the efficiency improvements, this also allows employees to focus on work that requires creativity and critical thinking, rather than spending time completing tedious tasks. Using automaton in conjunction with human workers improves the workplace for everyone.

Within manufacturing, intelligent process automation can handle extensive amounts of data to help streamline ordering, procurement, and scheduling workflows, to name a few. When paired with other smart manufacturing technologies, such as robotics, intelligent automation supplements human workers in a way that is transforming not only production workflows, but the manufacturing industry as a whole.

To learn more about intelligent automation in manufacturing and meet suppliers within the southwest region, attend HOUSTEX.