Are you a manufacturer looking to upgrade or expand your production capabilities? Manufacturing automation solutions are a powerful way to improve efficiency and productivity while eliminating errors and enhancing worker safety. From improved control systems to the strategic integration of robots in one or more areas of your facility, automation offers numerous advantages that simplify operations, increase yield rates, reduce costs, and more.
If you have considered adding robotics and automation in your operations, but don’t know where to start, this blog is for you. We’ll highlight some key opportunities for manufacturing automation from assembly to finishing and packaging and beyond. Keep reading to learn how robotic systems can help your business remain agile and profitable in an ever-changing industrial landscape.
1: End-of-Line Packaging
End-of-line packaging automation benefits manufacturing businesses by streamlining operations and making them more consistent. Equipment like conveyors, robots with articulated arms and grippers, and fixtures that correctly position products help reduce repetitive manual tasks like lifting, bending, or twisting. Sensors and cameras can also be added to a system to reduce errors in sorting, inspection, and labeling.
Because automated systems are programmed to repeat a task with great precision, packaging becomes more efficient (both in terms of time and potentially package size) with less risk of product damage, incorrect packing, or inconsistent sealing of cartons. In the end, a larger quantity of products are ready to ship in less time.
By automating packaging tasks, manufacturers can also acquire valuable data on their supply chain, leading to greater optimization capabilities throughout the full production line. End-of-line packaging automation can quickly become an insightful and powerful asset for businesses that want to achieve new levels of manufacturing prowess with maximum efficiency and cost savings.
Robotic welding is often faster than manual welding, with more consistent welds and more efficient use of consumables like shielding gas or wire. Many materials and applications are suitable for robotic welding, and robotic welding systems are compatible with arc (TIG or MIG), laser, and spot welding. Robotic welding systems may offer a smaller initial investment compared with larger-scale automated processes for many industries including automotive OEMs and their suppliers, aerospace, and more.
In addition to selecting the right welding machine power supply, torch, and robotic equipment, fixturing is critical when designing a robotic welding system – improper fixtures contribute to many welding errors and rejected parts, costing time and money. An automation integrator with welding expertise, such as Force Design, can create a welding system with the necessary fixtures to accept, position, and hold components and discharge weldments quickly and repeatedly.
It’s important to realize most of the dangers of manual welding persist in automated systems. A sound automated welding system must prioritize worker safety. Features like interlocking switches, gates, guard locking, laser or light curtains, in addition to appropriate eye protection, fume shields, and proper marking of danger zones must be included to ensure a safe working environment.
While robotic systems can save money by reducing labor costs for repetitive manual tasks, skilled welders are still needed to oversee the system and for troubleshooting. Automated systems may also give welders more time for specialized or unique projects (or even prototyping).
3: Assembly and Sub-Assembly
Robots equipped with grippers or other specialized end-of-arm-tooling can be programmed for assembly and sub-assembly work, even tasks requiring great dexterity and tight tolerances on small components. They generally outperform human workers with higher speed and greater output, thanks to the inherent repeatability of automation.
Inspection equipment can be incorporated into assembly stations to catch errors before components move to the next area of production. For example, cameras or sensors may be used to quickly verify critical specs like shape, size, weight, or color and trigger a lever or pusher to eject items that don’t pass into a separate bin or conveyor.
An experienced robotics integrator can design a system that fits your unique manufacturing process with increased productivity and efficiency to create a competitive edge. Flexible automation solutions, which can be redeployed for different tasks or in different areas of a facility, offer fast changeover and a range of tools, which helps manufacturers target automation exactly where it’s needed, even when needs change. This helps manufacturers stay resilient.
4: Finishing Processes
Thanks to their ability to repeat the same task over and over with minimal variance, robots excel at finishing processes like sanding and polishing, detail cutting, deburring, grinding, and painting.
And because modern robots are often run by software that’s intuitive and easy to update, adjusting the program to perfect the finish is convenient. This means workers can briefly pause production and correct course as soon as a problem is noticed, instead of scrapping an entire batch. This is important for applications where finishing impacts product fit, performance, or appearance such as automotive parts, medical devices, appliances, or furniture.
Automating some or all of your finishing processes may allow you to redeploy skilled employees to other more complex jobs or even reduce overall labor costs. In terms of worker safety, automated finishing can limit exposure to dust and chemicals from sanding, deburring, painting, as well as the repetitive movements that contribute to fatigue or injury.
5: Loading, Unloading, and Conveying Parts and Products
Robots make it easier and more efficient to move and position raw materials, parts, and other equipment in many manufacturing settings. This can include end-of-line packaging or palletizing/depalletizing bulky or heavy items, moving items in and out of an assembly line, or even completing all the steps in a manufacturing process.
For example, a robotic arm with a gripper can be programmed to operate a CNC milling machine: it opens and closes hatches or doors, inserts and positions a metal blank, presses the start button, and removes the finished part from the machine.
The great benefit here is that the robot allows human workers to be reassigned to other tasks, turning their downtime during the CNC cycle into productive time elsewhere. Or, it may be possible to kickstart new manufacturing processes with fewer workers, allowing you to expand or diversify your offerings with a smaller investment of resources.
Robotics integrated into the conveyor system can also improve accuracy during product transfers between machines, and create a safer environment for employees whose jobs now require less lifting, bending, repetitive motions.
Design a Custom Factory Automation Solution for Your Business
At Force Design, we specialize in designing, building, and installing custom robotic automation solutions for manufacturers of all sizes. We begin with your end goals for production, learning the details of your unique manufacturing processes and requirements to meet your specifications.
To learn more about harnessing the power of automation for your manufacturing business, contact us today to get started.