Collaborative robots. Lack of skilled tradespeople. Industry 4.0. Increased health and safety requirements. The Internet of Things. Tighter quality standards. Where is this headed?
Consensus is building that automation is becoming necessary. EMC members discussed Investing in Automation during our roundtable SIG on September 14th at Techplace in Burlington. Technology replaces boring or dirty jobs, increases quality and decreases variation, eliminates bottlenecks, reduces dangerous tasks to increase health and safety, or allows you to get the job done when you can’t hire humans to do the task. Our members provided examples of all of these.
But where do you start? How do you know where to invest? One participant suggested that spending some time watching YouTube videos was a good place to find out what was possible. There was a lot of agreement that you should start small. Involve your workforce, get something going well, and then build on that success. What you should not automate are non-value-added activities in your plant. You want to eliminate those, not invest in them!
Participants at the SIG shared their advice freely:
- Beware of scope creep; it is all too easy to think that adding a little bit more functionality wouldn’t hurt.
- Automation installations involve troubleshooting on the floor; these need to become opportunities for your employees to get involved and behind the project, not to stand around pointing fingers saying “I told you so!”
- Finally, although it is possible to purchase used automation equipment, it was recommended to buy new unless you are exactly duplicating the process that equipment was used for before. New equipment has the latest safety features, you purchase only what you need, and new tech is easier to troubleshoot.
Conversation ranged over collaborative robots, the types of problems that caused firms to turn off the automation and go back to the “old way,” and many other topics. To get all the details, come to our next SIG!
Thank you to our gracious hosts at TechPlace Burlington!