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7 ways factory automation will change the way you work

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Achieving the level of automation the factory of the future requires may sound daunting. But don’t think of this as wholesale change. No matter what your goal, factory automation offers all kinds of opportunities. Whether you want to create a production line that takes care of itself or expand your operation through big data and artificial intelligence, the choice is yours. Automated systems offer flexibility, precision and quality that could change the way you work forever.

1. Create a seamless inventory system

Managing stock is made more complicated when there’s room for human error. Automating the process from start to finish means you will have accurate figures and the right items in your warehouse. 
Factory automation may mean you could create a system that will scan barcodes as raw materials enter your facility, then enter them into your inventory management system. When they are stored, they can be recovered using an automated guided vehicle (AGV) and chip, so the hard work of look-ups and retrievals is also done for you.

2. Let robotics do the picking

The time and risk associated with manual material handling can be reduced through factory automation. Using robots, clawbots or other robotic handling systems means raw materials can be picked directly from containers and transferred to the right machinery without human intervention.
Automating these repetitive tasks will free up staff members for more valuable input down the production line. Plus, you will get a consistently high standard of picking, while ensuring the safety of workers who can monitor and check for quality at a distance.

3. Automate your production processes

There are so many distinct tasks you can leave to factory automation. From grinding and polishing to packing and dispatching, it’s possible to create highly tailored and automated processes to meet any level of production requirements.
Programming to precise specifications also makes for a more consistent output, so you can be sure the product being distributed is of the highest possible standard.

4. Improve efficiencies through data

Data might be the greatest asset of an automated factory. It can help you to improve in every area of your business by identifying wastage, maximising high-performance areas and trimming the fat. You might monitor each stage of your production process, whether it’s the number of parts, the time it takes to make a part, when machines are offline and so on. 
Automated alerts will help keep you across what’s going on. Customisable business intelligence dashboards can also monitor your entire system in real-time, from orders going out to machines in need of urgent repairs. To take it a step further, developments in artificial intelligence mean you could remove yourself from the process entirely and let algorithms suggest improvements for you.

5. Make your maintenance water-tight

Machines that aren’t working properly – or at all – are a huge productivity risk to your factory. Keeping track of how each machine is performing and when it needs to be maintained can all but eliminate that risk.
Factory automation can be created to monitor machines and perform automated maintenance procedures based on how many hours they have been running. Preventative maintenance serves to limit the risk before it becomes a problem, while automated communication processes can let users know about potential problems before they disrupt workflows and cost you money.

6. Learn how your factory is performing

Like process data, analysing your business-wide numbers will help you perform even better. Automated systems can output information about every step of your workflow. You might start with something simple: how many orders have you dispatched? Then expand your queries to better understand where you could improve: how many of those orders were on time? If there were delays, what caused them?
An automated periodic report can give you a push to review trends in your factory and find solutions – many of which could be further automation!

7. Show your customers you mean business

There are almost limitless ways to automate your customer ordering – and that means a better experience for both of you. On the process side, you can create systems to automatically populate order information in your Enterprise Resource Planning sytem (ERP), send work information to the machine and signal to AGV to pick up the raw materials. The customer’s whole order can get started without any human interaction at all.
Factory automation can also be a great way to retain customers. With so much data available, you can better understand their needs and the way they operate. For example, you might be proactive with orders, offer relevant new product information based on their order history, or cross-sell another product they have been sourcing elsewhere.