One of the most important things to understand about downtime in manufacturing is that even planned events like shift or product changeovers are still incredibly costly. According to one recent study, the average cost of downtime across all types of manufacturing businesses was $260,000 per hour in 2016. That's an enormous jump of 60% from just two years prior. Not only that but in some industries, the costs are dramatically higher. In auto manufacturing, for example, experts estimate that downtime can cost up to $50,000 per minute by way of lost production capabilities, lost capacity, direct labor costs, and more.
But thankfully, these aren't the types of costs that your organization has to deal with for much longer. Embracing manufacturing automation can not only help reduce changeover times across your operations, but it brings with it a host of other unique opportunities that cannot be ignored.
What is Manufacturing Automation? Breaking Things Down
In this context, manufacturing your changeovers can happen in a few different ways depending on your unique circumstances. One of the most common of these is robotic changeovers, which is where you leverage industrial robotics to automate the configuration of your equipment settings as you change over from one product line to the next. When your equipment is connected to the appropriate software, the system will memorize the various setups that you're working with and can instantly switch both parts and settings instantly whenever a new SKU is assigned.
A fully automated changeover is also quite common. This is where your production equipment is all connected together via key systems to handle the entirety of the changeover process without human intervention. Centralized systems are used to set the appropriate production sequencing, changeover orders are generated instantly and all materials, tools, and equipment are instantly configured and ready to go.
The Benefits of Factory Automation
Obviously, the most important benefit of all of this is that you're handling changeover requirements as quickly as possible - thus allowing your production lines to be as productive as possible. This also frees up the valuable time of your human employees who would normally be responsible for these tasks to focus on more important matters that truly need them.
But this type of manufacturing automation also goes a long way towards eliminating human error. Automated solutions give you predictable, reliable results every time - leading to fewer defects caused by incorrect adjustments during changeover.
Perhaps the most important benefit of factory automation is that it helps provide the data you need to make better decisions regarding preventative maintenance. These types of automation systems also provide valuable data regarding the current health and status of equipment, alerting you to situations that indicate a failure might occur. This can allow you to prioritize scheduled maintenance to not only reduce the possibility it will impact production, but to also improve the lifetime value of your equipment as well.
All of these gel together to provide the most important benefit of all: smarter, faster, and more effective production capabilities that let you offer better products and a superior experience to your customers. If you need just a single reason to embrace flexible factory automation in your own business, let it be that one.
At PrimeTest, we're custom automation system designers and builders who are experts in putting together tomorrow's automation, today. Our state-of-the-art solutions can help you solve many of the manufacturing challenges your company faces, all while letting you capitalize on every opportunity to succeed in today's fast-paced environment.
To find out more information about how to reduce changeover time in your manufacturing environment through flexible factory automation, or to get answers to any questions you may have, please don't delay - contact PrimeTest Automation today.