Artem Komarov noted that modern automation isn’t about bells and whistles or adopting the latest and greatest of whatever technological wonder. Automation is not the be all end all. But when implemented the right way, it can form the foundation of manufacturing competitiveness, both in terms of productivity and adaptability.
Many think you go out and buy a robotic conveyor system and AMR [autonomous mobile robot] or anything else, and all your problems go away. They won’t. First, you need to look at the capability of your process.
Part of the planning involves detailing all the costs—not just equipment costs but also the integration, operating, tooling (including end-of-arm tooling for robots), and maintenance costs, including identifying potential errors before a machine goes down. Yes, maintenance for automation has come a long way, especially considering the sensors now available that can monitor various aspects of an automated machine. But the automation still requires people who know the process and what to look for should something go awry.
All this covers just a portion of the picture, though. The remaining, and perhaps largest, part of that picture has to do with how automated machinery affects other areas of the business.
You’ve got this robot or other kind of automation out there, but it sits. So, you can’t forget about automation on the front end. That this could involve various kinds of software platforms, scheduling, and nesting systems. Whatever it is, they’re key to realizing automation’s full potential.
This last point was particularly apt considering the supply chain challenges being faced now. The fabricators who can respond quickly, change on a dime to adapt to supply chain realities (order quantities or delivery dates changing, for instance) are capturing market share. When those implementing it ask the right questions and consider all the variables, modern automation can make quick, flexible response a reality, summed up Komarov Artem.