Industrial technology has progressed at a breakneck pace recently, and the application of robotic technology and automation is a fundamental tool in modern manufacturing. According to the Boston Consulting Group, “combining advanced robotics with other technologies, process enhancements, and structural layout changes [in a manufacturing environment] can yield savings of up to 40%,” which presents considerable potential for manufacturing companies seeking to leverage the expertise of a skilled contract manufacturing partner.
Automation can enhance the speed and efficiency at which products are made. Since machines can repeat a process with exact precision, they can work at a consistent rate while minimizing the human errors that could occur. Automation can be found, to some degree, in most manufacturing operations, reducing waste in both time and resources. Employing automated manufacturing also boosts production speed, ensuring products get to market faster and more cost-effectively. But there are times when an automated approach may be counterintuitive to the organization’s overall goals, and understanding when and how to apply automated manufacturing is critical to successful production.
Is Automated Manufacturing Right For My Product?
Many businesses mistakenly view automation as the ultimate goal in manufacturing, but several factors must be considered before moving forward. In automation, everything comes down to ROI. At Micron, we understand manufacturing’s ultimate goal is not to maximize automation for its own sake but to devise a production method that will maximize ROI while minimizing risk and error. To that end, we employ a multi-layered approach to determine when automation will best serve a particular product.
Our highly-customizable approach breaks down into three basic categories, each of which are then tailored to suit a particular product or customer’s needs:
- Manual - All processes are carried out by hand with no robotic technology. Manual production and assembly processes are ideal for prototypes and low-volume production, allowing methods to evolve until the most efficient and effective approach is identified.
- Semi-Automation - A combination of automated and manual processes, leveraging “the best of both worlds.” When closed-loop automation isn’t prudent, semi-automated processes may be applied as a transitional phase in the evolution toward large-scale production.
- Automation - Robotic equipment is programmed to handle manufacturing with minimal human intervention. This may include production, assembly, camera inspection, and more.
Knowing when to apply automation in manufacturing requires careful thought and experience. For example, prototypes lack the stability required to effectively use automation— as the product is subjected to design changes the cost of redesigning and reprogramming automated manufacturing systems for such a low-volume run of products would be cost-prohibitive. However, once that product design has stabilized and volume has increased, an experienced manufacturing partner will be able to identify opportunities to introduce partial or full automation to amplify efficiency and predictable throughput.
The decision to implement partial or full automation requires an assessment of four major factors:
- The complexity of the product
- The stage of the product’s lifecycle
- The stability of the product and the probability of future design changes
- The increased return on investment that will occur as a result of automated production
Smart Automated Manufacturing Takes More Than Technology
A manufacturer who has worked extensively with automation will have the experienced engineering talent needed to know when automation for your product will benefit everyone involved. They will also have the insight needed to know which automation stage will work best for your particular product.
At Micron, our team’s depth of experience in a variety of manufacturing settings means we can advise customers on the when and how of automation, and provide engineering and DFM support to ensure that automation will be the best course of action. We work closely with each customer to develop a highly-customized contract manufacturing experience that will guide their product to the right level of automated production for their unique circumstances.
Micron is ready to take your production to the next level. Contact Micron today to leverage our cutting-edge manufacturing techniques, extensive expertise, and decades of manufacturing experience.