Industrial automation technologies are continuously advancing and rapidly transforming manufacturing processes – forcing manufacturers to reassess their work flows in order to reduce costs and remain competitive. But implementing these new automation technologies does not occur without some major hurdles! Below are the top challenges facing automation projects.
- Understanding the problem and work process: at the very beginning of an automation project, it is crucial that all parties clearly understand the problem that automation will solve. This step is vital to the success of a project! Are you looking for higher production volumes, better quality, or an improved working environment for humans? Once you hone in on the problem, you will need to determine the specific task that is best suited for automation. It is worth the time to map out the specific task, paying attention to the inputs and outputs from the automated cell. You should also establish performance indicators that assess the success of the work cell such as throughput and speed, quality, etc. so you can clearly assess performance before and after the automation project. If the problem or work process are not clearly understood, it will be nearly impossible to implement a successful automation solution.
- Securing Employee Buy-in: there is often an assumption that automation projects are implemented to reduce employee headcount. A successful automation project addresses employee concerns head-on! When a new project is kicked-off, it is important to understand the benefits and communicate them clearly to employees. Let your staff know that automation is one of many solutions to help the company achieve its goals – and that automation allows employees to focus on more value-added tasks that provide more benefit to the company and are often more enjoyable to the employee. Additionally, involve operators and other knowledgeable staff in the automation project – this will tap into their expertise and improve the probability for success while securing employee buy-in of the solution!
- Comprehensive Testing: testing has always been a critical step for automation projects. But as manufacturing becomes more digitalized and integrated, testing is becoming more complicated. Companies and their automation partners must be aligned on the specific scenarios to be tested and the testing program details in order to ensure proper responses and system integration.
- Successful Integration: another challenged faced by automation projects is the integration of the automated solution with existing systems. Some automation solutions are independent solutions, and when inserted into the manufacturing process there may be issues with connectivity and synchronization that result in data loss or system vulnerabilities. Therefore, automation projects need to clearly understand how the solution will integrate with existing systems, addressing any potential connectivity and synchronization issues upfront.
- Robust Security: unfortunately, as automation solutions have advanced significantly in recent years, so have the skills of hackers and other cybercriminals. Security breaches can be costly to both a company’s bottom line and reputation so cybersecurity must be taken seriously! With the digitalization of manufacturing, more and more systems are being interconnected resulting in data protection challenges; thus, ensuring robust and current security systems is a major challenge for automation projects. Security software must be current, personnel must be trained, and computer systems should be monitored to flag any abnormal activities.
- Sufficient IT Expertise: Information Technology (IT) support is not only needed during the project but throughout the entire life cycle of an automation solution. Ensuring sufficient IT expertise is often a big challenge for projects, especially as automation solutions become more complex and customized. Additionally, companies used to have in-house IT support and expertise but over time many companies have chosen to outsource this skill set, opting to leverage IT and automation expertise from a partner, like Concept Systems that provides initial support during the project as well as on-going 24/7 support and remote monitoring services. Regardless of whether you have in-house IT know-how or outsource this skill, you must ensure access to adequate IT support in order to have a successful automation project.
Concept’s Project Methodology
Concept Systems is 100% committed to maintaining current, state-of-the art equipment that allow customers to achieve competitive manufacturing today and tomorrow. With the technologies available, there are countless robotic and machine vision applications that can help you address your business challenges. From basic picking and sorting to enhanced vision inspection, from custom built end of arm tooling to complete work cell design and integration, our team of expert engineers design and integrate solutions that enhance the efficiency and profitability of your operations.
From proposal to wrap-up, Concept follows a 13-step project methodology. The benefits of this approach are a clearly defined scope, roles & responsibilities, timeline, budget and costs – ensuring alignment among key stakeholders!
We’ll dive into your manufacturing process and build a smart, precisely tailored automation solution to improve throughput and elevate quality. Leverage the advances in technology to improve your manufacturing – contact us today!