5 Best Practices for Integrating an Operator Into an Automation Process

Automation solutions pave the way for both higher quality and greater output. They can reduce the risk of injury through repetitive movements by automating activities that used to be manual. But, in order to get the most benefit from your automated systems, they need to be implemented the right way. These practices can ensure that operators are integrated into an automation process effectively:

1. Decide which parts of processes should be manual and which should be automated.

We worked with a medical component supplier to develop a new system to expand their capacity. Their existing system required operator labor in both inspection and final packaging. However, having operators touch every assembly by hand introduced the potential for both errors and damage.

We implemented a system that placed items in packaging and performed inspections. A custom view panel gave the operator tuning tools and quick system status feedback.

2. Allow collaboration with the operator.

An aerospace company needed a new test procedure that would increase accuracy and consistency. Their current process depended on operator judgment, which led to many opportunities for human error.

However, human operators were still needed for parts of the process. We identified areas that needed to be accessed by both robot and operator. Using collaborative robots allowed operators to closely monitor processes and take over when needed.

3. Use automation as a force multiplier.

When a manufacturing client had the opportunity to grow their business, they wanted a way to expand capacity without growing the size of their team. In their current system, trained operators were producing finished parts every two minutes. To meet their new capacity, they would need up to seven operators working at a time.

By increasing efficiency and speeding up processes, they were able to meet their projected volumes with a single operator tending the system.

4. Identify labor-intensive processes.

A manufacturing client was experiencing a great deal of waste in their assembly process for a complex ignition component. Small components were difficult for operators to manipulate. And, because of their batch processing, an issue with a single component would mean the entire batch needed to be reprocessed or scrapped.

We created a process that let them hand off the parts of the process that were difficult for operators, so they could reduce labor and put their team members where they could do the most good.

5. Use automation to keep operators safer.

In any automated mechanical system, keeping operators out of harm's way is a must. Physical barriers can be inconvenient for people on the floor. Presence detection devices, however, can help you avoid hazards without bulky blockades.

Light curtains, laser area scanners and safety mats all make it possible for the automated systems to detect when someone is nearby. As a result, they can cut the risk of injury.