Why would you automate your production?
We’ve compiled the following list of why companies we’ve worked with have made the decision to automate:
All these reasons have the same driving factor - the need for businesses to be able to meet their market's needs in a competitive way. By competitive, we mean competitive both locally and globally. Being competitive globally is critical for all companies either looking to export or competing with imported products. Which describes almost every manufacturing company in New Zealand.
At Design Energy we’re passionate about New Zealand Manufacturing. Kiwis have developed and are continuing to develop a huge number of world beating products. Unfortunately it is becoming more and more common to see these ideas being manufactured off shore, due to the cost of manufacturing in New Zealand. This is why we have the following mission statement:
What happens as your product comes together from its raw components?
In automation there is great value in knowing the position of a product in space. Put another way, if you don’t know the position of the product, it costs money to find it by applying a magazine or bowl feeder for example. The product has to be introduced to a process in an accurate and repetitive way. It often pays to look at how the product comes out of the previous process. If possible, there are potential savings in linking the automated process directly to the end of the previous process.
Tasks are typically more complex than you may initially perceive. Analyse in detail what is happening and which processes are adding value. There can be savings made, both in time and cost, by removing non-value added processes where possible. An example of a non-value added process is transporting parts between processes by palletising them at the end of one process and depalletising them at the start of the next process.
This can be difficult as it involves looking at the weakness of all the preceding processes. Is it possible for the product to show up backwards, upside down, or not at all? Do you have control of the tolerances of the product being presented to the automated process? Dealing with these variables can be expensive, less so if these variables are identified and addressed as part of the development of the automation. Variables are why automation companies often use the phrase:
There is almost always a method of dealing with a variable, but it usually costs money. If you don't allow for any variability, then the quality of your product and the productivity of the system will suffer.
Good automation providers will ask a lot of questions around what processes are being carried out, as it is the major factor in the cost of automation. It is critical that both you and the automation company understand the process and the variables when designing an automated system.
How much space do you have available to install equipment?
Space and positioning of equipment can be deciding factors in how automation is applied to a process, especially when adding to an existing line. The initial step is to define how much space is available, which is usually quite straight forward.
The next step, which takes longer but can result in further savings, is to look at the space in terms of process flow. Can raw materials and processed product be loaded/unloaded from one side of the automated system? Is there an advantage in stacking onto multiple pallets? Is there room to achieve this?
The layout of the plant also has great influence on how automated processes are integrated. Do you understand why your plant is currently laid out like it is? What machinery can and can’t be moved? What are the costs involved moving machinery? An experienced Automation Company will be looking at the big picture and may identify benefits in a change of layout.
This analysis of the process flow can also provide an opportunity to make the Plant a nicer place to work. Is the loading/unloading of products as easy as it can be? Can we reduce health and safety risks by not having operators in the same area as forklifts? Does that noisy press have to be right next to the cafe?
Finally, automated processes are a major investment, which is why many of the latest plant layouts are designed so that visitors and customers can see the process. Since you're spending money on new technology, why not position it so people can see it.
What labour input is involved in your production process?
Labour costs are repeatedly identified as the major reason New Zealand Manufacturers struggle to compete in a global market. Automating processes where there are large amounts of labour required provides opportunity for significant reductions in production costs. It is common for a large portion of the cost of the automation to be funded through ongoing labour savings, so a clear understanding of the labour cost involved in the current production process is important.
If Bob’s Accountant wants to see a payback period of 3 years, delivered solely by labour cost savings, then he can justify spending $300,000 on automating this part of production.
It is important not to forget that an automated system still needs some labour input. As well as the day to day operation of the system almost all automated systems have consumables which need to be restocked manually. Typical consumables include glue pellets in a gluing system, ink for a label printer or filler wire in a welding system. The labour content is often not an entire labour unit, but more likely a person spending ten minutes every hour monitoring the system.
A final note on labour costs - to understand the real cost of labour, administration, ACC, holidays etc must be accounted for. A simple rule of thumb is to add an additional 25-30% of the hourly rate to approximate these costs.
For a printed copy of the 5 W's Contact Us and we'll send one out to you.