by Michael Griffith, Manufacturing Technology Engineer


Being a competitive manufacturer in the global marketplace means reducing your cost of operations, reacting quickly to customer needs, and utilizing technology and a skilled workforce to increase manufacturing efficiencies. All of which can be accomplished with automation. First and foremost, automation is not about replacing workers, but rather relieving workers of repetitive, tedious, and/or hazardous tasks in favor of higher value-added operations. Workers are highly skilled resources that can solve problems, create efficiencies and perform complex actions and should be utilized as such. As with most processes, merely getting started is the toughest hurdle to climb. Deciding whether automation is right for your business and which operation to automate are difficult questions. Here are five points to consider when deciding whether to automate a process or not:

  1. Increase throughput – Could your business benefit from increasing capacity of a particular product or from a particular machine? Automation increases throughput of repetitive operations by increasing operational speed and reducing downtime.
  2. Improve quality – Properly set up processes are accurate, precise and repeatable.
  3. Improve safety – Operations that are dirty, hot, physically demanding, require repetitive motion or involve hazardous materials are prime candidates to be replaced with automation.
  4. Maximize floor space – Manual labor requires room on the floor to move about safely; automated machines can be designed and configured to make optimal use of available floor space.
  5. Replace a diminishing workforce – Nearly every manufacturer faces the similar issue of an aging workforce that is nearing retirement and an empty pipeline to backfill with. Automation reduces a manufacturer’s risk due to the lack of a skilled workforce.

Automation technology has improved to the point that automated machines are now considered very flexible, perform various tasks during a single program, cost-effective, and provide numerous benefits to both the manufacturer and workforce. To discuss whether automation is right for your business, contact your NWIRC Business Advisor.