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Key Questions to Ask Before Automating

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Automation is a proven way for companies to speed up production, produce higher quality products, and compete globally. Making the transition from traditional processes to new technology doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger. A clear understanding of needs must be matched with the solutions that automation provides.

Use these key assessment questions as an evaluative framework before investing in new equipment.

How will Automation Help?

Know the company goals, identify the obstacles to reaching those goals, and address how automation can solve existing problems. If there are production slowdowns or equipment breaking down at specific points then check for the type of systems that can relieve logjams. Look at the repetitive actions and tasks that employees handle and see if automating speeds up the process and reduces injuries. Clear goals help identify the equipment needed to provide the best solution.

What Systems are Needed Now and Later?

Understand what capabilities will help. Know how gripping and sorting versus imaging will improve packaging or if both are needed at some point in the process. More accurate cuts or welds may lead to winning larger accounts while vision and imaging technology can speed up process inspection. Automation that is wisely implemented can increase capacity, yet no one has a crystal ball look into the future. Take a realistic view to make sure a system put in place today will serve favorably for years to come.

What are the Real Costs and Projected Returns?

Calculate the cost of equipment purchase plus the impact of downtime needed for retraining workers. Plan for on-going management and maintenance costs and check for a system that may last several years or more.

Consider the projected returns based on improved production, reduced expenses, and increased sales. Project how long it will take to recoup the investment. For operations that have moved offshore, consider that automation will likely be less to operate than the cost of what appears to be cheap labor. An investment calculator is provided through Save Your Factory.com.

Will the Vendor Support the Sale?

Buying equipment itself is one important part of automating. Purchasing with confidence in the vendor’s reputation is another part. Check the background of the seller for their expertise in the particular system and what support policies are in place. This article on choosing motion control partners has principles worth considering for the purchase and implementation of all types of automated equipment.

How is This a Selling Point?

Companies have leveraged the use of automation as a selling point to win new clients, impress with high quality deliverables, and then win additional work from the same customer.

G&W Products in Ohio won bids on its welding capabilities using robots for repetitive tasks while placing people in position for strategic welds. The company was able to showcase its other services like laser cutting, stamping, and tool and die manufacturing. An investment in automation can show customers a commitment to quality for the present and the future.

These questions may lead to additional ones that will be useful in selecting and implementing an automated strategy. The answers will provide the confidence needed to move forward and improve efficiencies and capabilities.