Automated manufacturing systems have been used in the industrial sector for decades to improve operations. Automation technologies are practically a requirement to be a successful manufacturing company during the fourth industrial revolution. This is why many manufacturing companies are undergoing digital transformations to fully automate production processes. Learn more about automated manufacturing systems and find out how implementing industrial automation technologies has benefited manufacturers.
What Are Automated Manufacturing Systems?
An automated manufacturing system relies on computer control systems to run and manage production processes. In a fully automated facility, the machines and technology are interconnected and managed by these control systems. These entirely automated facilities don’t require any human intervention within the production process. In these types of manufacturing plants, human workers are only needed to maintain equipment and program the control systems.
Once programmed, the control systems direct the automated equipment to complete the necessary manufacturing work. These systems not only control production machinery, but can also schedule production tasks and determine maintenance schedules for the automated machines. Control systems can even monitor product quality by connecting to cameras on the production line.
The Different Kinds of Automation
Fully automated manufacturing systems have the potential to optimize production operations and maximize efficiency. But not every automation system is the same. There are three main types of automation: fixed, programmable and flexible.
Fixed automation systems are set to manufacture a single product. Usually, individual machines within a fixed automation system are designed to complete a specific task, and it’s difficult to switch production methods once these machines are in place. This type of automation is best suited to producing large product quantities.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are programmable automation systems. Machinery within these automated manufacturing systems are programmed to complete tasks. Unlike machines within fixed automation systems, machines within programmable automation systems can be easily reprogrammed for different product configurations or to complete different tasks within the production process. They can even be programmed to work on completely different products. Programmable automation systems are good for batch production.
Flexible automation systems are similar to programmable automation, but these systems are meant to work with limited production downtime. Programmable automation requires downtime between batches to reprogram equipment, and excessive downtime can be costly. Flexible automation systems work with a limited number of product variations, and reprogramming is done through a computer. This allows for a faster changeover between products, which helps combat downtime. You can use flexible automation for batch production, but you can also use it for simultaneous production of different product types.
Industrial Automation Benefits
Regardless of which automated manufacturing system is used, there are significant benefits to fully automating production. Perhaps the most obvious and sought-after benefit is increased productivity. Automated equipment can work 24/7 without breaks or vacations, so simply introducing automation into production will improve productivity. Machines also work at a consistent speed, allowing them to produce more products in less time. Additionally, these products have fewer defects, which further helps to increase the production rate. An increase in production speed allows manufacturers to react more effectively to market changes and operate more competitively.
Another main benefit of automation is making manufacturing facilities safer. Robots and other machines can now take over unsafe tasks that were once done by human workers. Manufacturers can use automated equipment in dangerous locations and with hazardous materials and substances, allowing them to get the job done while keeping employees safe.
Overall, automated manufacturing systems lower operating costs while improving product quality. Machines can manufacture products faster and more accurately than human workers. But these systems aren’t necessarily replacing those workers. They’re just freeing up employees to focus on tasks that add more value. Even in a fully automated manufacturing facility, employees are needed for equipment maintenance and programming. Manufacturers who implement automation technologies often see a significant return on their investments while improving employee satisfaction, increasing productivity, and enhancing product quality.
To learn more about automated manufacturing systems, attend HOUSTEX.