In manufacturing, there are two ways to achieve high yields. Increasing the number of production lines is the simplest but most expensive option. An alternative and the more desirable way is to increase the production rate in the existing production lines.
It can also increase production by reducing the cycle time needed to produce a single part or product. There are two ways to reduce cycle time. The first is to improve the manufacturing process, and the second option is to use reprogrammable and automatically controlled equipment to automate the manufacturing process.
Industrial automation refers to a set of mechanical, electronic, and computer technologies that result in the operation of machines and systems in the manufacturing process without significant human intervention. It enables industrial systems to achieve significantly better performance in power, precision, and speed of operation than manual systems. This post will explore various advantages and disadvantages of industrial automation in manufacturing.
Advantages for industrial automation
- Increased labor productivity: The rate of production and labor productivity increase when a manufacturing operation is automated. This translates to more output per hour of labor.
- Reduced labor cost: The trend in the world’s industrialized societies has been and continues to be ever-increasing labor costs. As a result, increased investment in automation to replace manual operations has become economically justifiable. Machines are increasingly being used to replace human lahar to reduce unit costs.
- Migrate the effects of labor shortages: Many advanced countries are experiencing a labor shortage, which has prompted the development of automated operations as a labor replacement.
- Reduce or eliminate routine manual and clerical tasks: There is social value in automating routine, boring, fatiguing, and possibly annoying operations. Automating such tasks serves to improve the general level of working conditions.
- Improve worker safety: Automating the operations make the work much safer. However, the workers get active participation in a supervisory role.
- Improve product quality: Automation achieves higher production rates than manual operations and greater uniformity and conformity to quality specifications in the manufacturing process. One of the main advantages of automation is a lower rate of attraction defects.
- Reduce manufacturing lead time: Automation shortens the time between customer order and product delivery, giving the manufacturer a competitive advantage for future orders. The manufacturer reduces work-in-process inventory by reducing manufacturing lead time.
- Accomplish processes that cannot be done manually: Certain tasks are impossible to complete without the assistance of a machine. Precision, miniaturization, or geometry complexity are all requirements for these processes that cannot be met manually. Some examples are integrated circuit fabrication operations, rapid prototyping based on computer graphics (CAD) models, and computer numerical control machining of complex, mathematically defined surfaces. Computer-controlled systems can only carry out these processes.
- Avoid the high cost of not automating: Automating a manufacturing plant provides a significant competitive advantage. The benefit is difficult to demonstrate on a company’s project approval form. Automation’s advantages often manifest in unexpected and intangible ways, such as improved quality, increased sales, improved labor relations, and a better company image. Companies that do not automate are likely to fall behind their competitors in terms of customers, employees, and the general public.
Disadvantages of industrial automation
- Higher start-up and operation costs: Automated equipment often includes high capital expenditures. The design, fabrication, and installation can cost millions of dollars.
- Higher cost of maintenance: When compared to a manually operated machine, a higher level of maintenance is required in automation in terms of buying electromechanical devices like electromechanical valves, sensory devices, and smart devices. Spare parts for an automation system may be more expensive than manual operation.
- Obsolescence/depreciation cost: The gradual decrease in the value of physical assets is known as obsolescence and depreciation. This is common with all physical assets, such as equipment and machinery. It is unavoidable as a result of technological advancement. Obsolescence or depreciation can be two types, namely:
- Physical depreciation occurs due to physical damage of equipment or robots in the form of damage, wear, and corrosion.
- Depreciation of the functions means the changes in demand due to the changes in the need for a piece of equipment, service, or inability to meet demand.
- Unemployment: A disadvantage often associated with automation is worker displacement. There is a mass lay-off because manual laborers are being replaced by robots or other automated machinery. Many people are losing their jobs, especially those who work in the manufacturing industry, such as a car factory.