There are some common misconceptions about automation. Unfortunately, these widely believed myths might be keeping some manufacturers from achieving the productivity and profitability gains they need. Here are the myths, and the truths behind them.
For small and medium-sized food packing companies, one of the best things they can do is start to automate their production. It can help them reduce costs, make better use of their people, and increase efficiency, flexibility, and productivity.
However, there are some common misconceptions about automation. Unfortunately, these widely believed myths might be keeping some manufacturers from achieving the productivity and profitability gains they need.
Here are the myths, and the truths behind them:
You have to automate complete operations
Automation is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It’s not a matter of rebuilding your entire line. You can automate incrementally, selecting areas of your production that would benefit from faster production.
In fact, sometimes less is more. By automating incrementally, you can avoid huge capital outlays and achieve a quicker payback on your investment. This approach also allows you to address specific needs, adding efficiency where it’s most needed.
This approach also allows you to evaluate your results after each increment, quickly determining whether or not you achieved your desired savings or ROI. That means you don’t have to commit funding to large projects, only to find out the results didn’t live up to expectations.
You don’t have room for automation
When you think of automating a production line, you might think of Rube Goldberg-style machines that have a huge footprint and require a dedicated power source. For smaller manufacturers, that’s simply not an option.
While machines like that certainly do exist, they are not absolutely necessary, especially if you’re automating your lines incrementally. Look for machines that have a small footprint and can even be moved and reconfigured with relative ease, if necessary.
You need highly skilled staff to maintain automation equipment
A common perception is that automated machines are complicated, intricate, and finicky. This means the Rube Goldberg machines, as referenced above, also need an army of highly trained technicians operate them and keep them running.
Again, that’s not always the case. Machines designed with simplicity in mind have simple, intuitive controls and off-the-shelf components, are easy to maintain, and don’t require special training.
You need consulting engineers or experts to implement automation
Another problem with the Rube Goldberg machines is they create the perception that you need consulting engineers or integrators to to help you plan and implement your automation project. This, of course, adds cost.
But it’s often unnecessary. First, it adds cost that can kill, or at least delay, the return on investment. If you’re taking an incremental approach to automation, finding the right vendor who can collaborate with your key internal people (who know your systems better than anyone) is all you need.
To the contrary of these myths and common misconceptions, small and medium-sized companies can in fact automate their lines. It can be done at a relatively low cost and in a way that does not disrupt their current processes and makes the best use of existing space, people and resources.
Most of all, taking an incremental approach allows them to achieve a faster payback on their investment, reduce costs and increase productivity.