The manufacturing world today is at a crossroads. Technology is evolving rapidly, demands are higher than ever before, and fewer and fewer employees are available to work in traditional manufacturing positions. On top of all those challenges, they compete globally through some of the most volatile supply chain challenges in history. So how can they survive? Part of the answer is to move beyond the thought of “this is how we have always done it” and enter a new age of Automation.
What is Automation?
Automation describes a wide range of technologies that reduce human intervention in processes. Human intervention is reduced by predetermining decision criteria, sub-process relationships, and related actions, embodying those predeterminations in machines.
When you read the definition of Automation, you may instantly think of sci-fi movies like Terminator, where machines take over everything, or you might start thinking that automation will lead to lost jobs. Both of those thoughts, although entertaining, are not what Automation means to a manufacturer today. Manufacturing is now a high-tech area; it isn’t your parent’s manufacturing.
Companies employ fast, complex equipment that contains more computing power than was needed to put a man on the moon. The machines are precise and fast and provide the capabilities to output more components than what was possible 20 years ago. But all this capability is often limited by four areas:
- Communication: the faster components are created, the more important it is to have a method for everyone in a company to communicate. Faster machines can scrap parts as fast as they make good parts. It is important to have everyone on the same page at all times.
- Offline Programming: The more complex the NC machine, the more important it becomes to program and validate the toolpaths before running the machine. This is also important to ensure the machines stay running as much as possible and avoid costly collisions.
- Robotics: Due to shortages of employees and unsafe work environments, robotics allows a company to use employees to solve problems for what they do best. Like steam-powered machines improved safety during the industrial revolution, robots help reduce fatigue and workplace injury from repetitive and monotonous tasks. Being able to program these robots offline also reduces risk of injury and allows them to stay in production longer improving workflow and meeting production demands.
- Factory Automation: The last struggle for many companies is process or workflow through a facility. Machines were often added over multiple years, and the flow isn’t often optimized for today’s requirements. Machines and equipment are expensive to move and often hard to validate while standing in a shop. The ability to analyze a 3d environment with calculations on efficiency and flow allow a company to make informed decisions without taking any machines offline before the move.
If any of these things are challenges you are faced with today or are struggling to overcome, we welcome you to attend Manufacturing Day with MetalQuest on Tuesday, May 3rd. We will be talking about these challenges and having open discussions and a Q&A to showcase some areas that may be able to help with the challenges all manufacturers face today.
Manufacturing is at a crossroads, and it will take all of us working together to get through it. We look forward to meeting with you to open a discussion on these topics. Click on the banner here to register today.