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Before You Automate Your Factory

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automatic labeling machine

Automation has been the way to go for years within the manufacturing and production industries. Look up the word on Google and you will find dozens of articles pounding on the benefits of automation and its importance to a facility’s survival. As such, most business owners are on the lookout to gear up their factories for automation. However, there are also many stories of business failures after bringing automation into their production line.

Why do some factories see huge gains after introducing automation while others fail? The answer lies in the strategic planning of its incorporation. Business owners who fail to understand their business needs, bottleneck points, pre-existing issues, and forecasted return on investment then naturally waste their capital on automation.

In this article, we will be covering several factors that you should consider before bringing automation to your production line.

Technical Feasibility

Technical feasibility is, of course, a required prerequisite for automating a given work task or set of tasks. You need to be aware of the specifications of your current facility and determine if the automation systems can be easily integrated in. Other related considerations would include the available floor space and the ability of your workers to operate any new systems. Ultimately, the new systems should seamlessly fit in, otherwise, new problems will arise post-installation.

For instance, you may wish to incorporate an automatic labeling machine in order to make any labeling processes quicker. However, if you do not have the appropriate software database to collect and organize data, then it will be for not. Instead, you will find a hugely negated system that eats into your profits.

Expense

Mention the cost of automation and most business owners will think about the cost of purchase. However, the expense goes way beyond this, extending to include the customization of any software or hardware to accommodate your needs.

Furthermore, if the new system is sophisticated, it might require the training of your employees to operate it successfully. Similarly related is the comparison between potential labor cost savings versus the general cost of labor in the market. As a rule of thumb, if the cost of labor is cheap, it might cost you more to automate processes.

Moreover, beyond cost, you need to consider the likely return on investment. A good ROI should give you good returns on the invested capital and it should arrive in a timely fashion.

Acceptance

Along with technical feasibility, the expense of software and hardware, labor supply and demand, and benefits past labor replacement, a 5th variable to be thought about.

This relates to how automation is seen from regulatory and social-acceptance viewpoints, such as the degree to which devices are appropriate in any particular setting, especially where they will engage with human beings.

The possibility for automation to take hold in a particular market or profession reflects a subtle interaction among all 5 of the variables and their trade-offs amongst them.

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