What is the importance of automation in the manufacturing industry?


Manufacturing industries are striving hard to keep up with the pace of how the global market is expanding, giving opportunities for higher revenue and cost reduction. They are trying every way to stay ahead of the competition by earning more and timely fulfilling the varying needs of their customers. Moreover, the need for quality products, maximum utilization of resources, cost-saving, and customer fulfillment is influencing manufacturers to invest in disruptive technology like Automation.

Promising cost reduction and revenue improvement, Automation in the manufacturing industry help in eliminating the non-productive activities/ processes and making the plant more productive. And, this is achieved by implementing automation solutions in the form of software, hardware, IoT sensors, and many more. Automation in manufacturing tremendously increases the plant efficiency by ensuring the effective use of Material, Money, Manpower, Methods, and Machinery.

“According to a recent report, the Global Smart Manufacturing market is speculated to grow from $153.80 billion to $436.89 billion by 2026.”


Automation and Manufacturing at present


Global manufacturing companies are investing heavily in automation to optimize their processes and make them more effective, efficient, fast, and accurate. Automation solutions, if properly designed and engineered, allow companies to reduce human intervention and further help them to eradicate the requirement of low-paying jobs and concentrate more on highly-skilled activities. This in return spurs business accuracy and growth, simultaneously reduces cost.
Automation solutions ensure that the manufacturing plant runs at full capacity, with zero wastage, high output, and as little production cost as possible. Automation solutions like Robotics and IoT help in increasing human safety and adding more flexibility to the manufacturing processes.
A manufacturer can invest in automation at any point in time, but it is essential to know that the solution design and implementation are based on the Theory of Constraints and Lean Manufacturing. Therefore, it is important to understand these concepts before investing in automation.


What is Lean Manufacturing?


Lean Manufacturing is an approach, a way of thinking or a mindset that is focused on eliminating the non-value added parameters from manufacturing processes and simultaneously increasing productivity. It employs a principle of ‘doing more with less by utilizing LEAN THINKING’. And, in this, often the Theory of Constraints (TOC) acts as the guiding principle for bringing the maximum results. Lean Manufacturing and the Theory of Constraints go hand-in-hand.


What is the Theory of Constraints?


It is a methodology of identifying the limiting factors (constraints) that come in the way of achieving the end goal. It systematically eradicates or improves the limiting factors until they are no longer affecting the throughput of the manufacturing plant. In addition, in the manufacturing world, constraints are often referred to as bottlenecks.
It may surprise you to know that in a typical manufacturing plant almost 60% of production activities are waste and not useful with respect to customers’ perspective. And, this is where the Theory of Constraints helps in knowing:

(1) What to eliminate?
(2) How to eliminate?
(3) How can the elimination help to improve the bottom line?

Including removing the waste, there is a constant need to proactively monitor and design preventive maintenance of every equipment and machine for any future faults. And, this is how Industry 4.0 came into the picture.


What is Industry 4.0?


Industry 4.0 is referred to as the ‘fourth wave’ of the industrial revolution in the manufacturing industry. It is an amalgamation of the physical and digital world for gaining actionable and analyzed insights about the plant. It is inspired by Lean theory but it brings useful data to the table. Fostering smart factories, Industry 4.0 is the current automation trend in the manufacturing industry. The main aim is to bring:


(1) Information transparency through the implementation of ERP/ BPI systems
(2) Clear communication between machines, devices, people, and sensors through IoT
(3) Accurate and error-free production with the help of Advanced Robots
(4) Automating decision-making by implementing AI-powered cognitive computing


Benefits of automation in the manufacturing industry


1. Performs labor-extensive operations without any error

Unlike humans, software systems perform tasks with much accuracy and reliability, without any complaints. Moreover, certain activities in a manufacturing plant are not suitable for humans; they are complex and risky. Such tasks can be easily automated with the help of various automation tools and technologies.


2. Prevents damages and errors

Humans have different mindset every day at work. And, they make mistakes when fatigued. Basically, ‘human emotion and sentiment’ greatly influences the work quality, quantity, and time required to achieve the output. Hence, this directly damages the raw materials, assemblies, and the end product.


3. Quickly identifies the non-conforming product

The implementation of the industrial robots ensures that every machine yields maximum output without violating the predefined instructions. The robots never miss instruction. They are programmed with inspection abilities to detect the non-conforming products, remove them, and prevent the damage.


4.Minimizes the manufacturing lead time

Automation solutions help in reducing the estimated time between order placement and order delivery. The end products are manufactured on time, with promised quality and delivered to the customers. This ‘One Time & in Full’ gives a competitive edge to the manufacturers and promotes customer fulfillment.


5. Accomplishes complex manual activities quickly and error-free

Certain operations in a manufacturing plant require accuracy, miniaturization or complex geometry that cannot be done manually. And, such processes, activities or tasks can be quickly managed by computer-controlled systems or advanced robots.

Including the above mentioned, there are many other benefits of introducing automation in your manufacturing plant. Automation, if designed and implemented correctly, can transform your business image with better quality products, higher sales, good customer relations, and maximum Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE). It can increase the robustness and consistency of your processes, machines, and products.


Automation and Manufacturing in the future


The manufacturing world is facing various technological changes owing to the increased demand for premium quality products and services. And, this can only be accommodated with a high degree of productivity and accuracy. Therefore, industrial automation is inevitable when it comes to improving and optimizing Money, Manpower, Materials, Machinery, and Methods of a manufacturing plant.
Industrial Automation is progressing towards explosive growth. It will give birth to new fully-automated factories and will redesign the existing into smart and robot-driven factories. Automation and AI together is going to revolutionize the future of manufacturing. Moreover, the global expenditure on robots is anticipated to reach $67 billion by 2025.


The world of manufacturing in the near future will not only be about making physical goods, but it will be more about bringing flexibility, accuracy, and reliability in fulfilling the personalized needs of the customers. And, in this, automation will help in achieving all of these and more.


How to get started


You need to evaluate your entire value chain and identify all the non-value adding parameters. You need to look for automation solutions that can help in quickly eradicating the same. You need to calculate the exact OEE of your plant and find ways to improve and make it the maximum. In case you find this difficult, you always seek help from experienced Business Process Management (BPM) consultants.