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The Swell of Automation in Manufacturing

Facility automation offers a world of hope for members of the reliability industry: improved quality control, better safety for employees and customers, an increase in production and machine performance and ultimately, reductions in spending. managers have a lot on their plates keeping their property in tip-top shape and making sure essential equipment is working. At the same time, they have to balance and juggle budget concerns and compliance standards. Because of this, it is important that every manager take advantage of any technology available that could make their lives easier and save their company money in the process. Let's take a look at the growth of automation and how it influences the facility and manufacturing world. Facility automation offers a world of hope for members of the reliability industry: improved quality control, better safety for employees and customers, an increase in production and machine performance and ultimately, reductions in spending. However, as promising as an automated facility is, if your system is not set up properly and implemented with a well-thought-out plan, your maintenance team can quickly turn from a production center to a cost center. With that in mind, let's look at some benefits of automated facility management.

Better Integration and Control of Systems

One great benefit of automation in facilities is the control it gives managers over systems within their building. From HVAC units to boilers and computer networks, with an automated system in place, facility managers can operate any machinery connected to their platform. This is a tremendous time-saver. Instead of having to walk from one building to another to perform a simple task (like adjusting the temperature), you can do it all from one location. Another side effect of this integration is the ability to monitor your systems for performance issues. This has several great benefits. For starters, you can often see issues before they arise. For instance, a machine whose performance is steadily declining is obviously in need of some maintenance attention. Catching the issue before the equipment breaks down can save any unnecessary downtime or a complete machine replacement, which may or may not be covered under warranty. This same ability to analyze systems lets you find ways to fine-tune and tweak the performance of equipment, increasing machine life expectancy and ramping up production capability. Finally, system integration typically comes with reporting tools that help with performance, budgeting, and documentation (if an injury occurs on your property or a machine breaks down, you will want to be sure you can document that you conducted your due diligence and maintenance plan properly).

Cutting Costs and Energy Reduction

At the end of the day, the biggest reason to incorporate an automated system is that it can save your company money. Facility management and preventative maintenance are often seen as an evil necessity; however, if you can actually reduce costs and increase profits, you can change the viewpoint of upper management and make them look at your department in a whole new light. As we touched upon earlier, monitoring equipment and catching failing machinery before it breaks down or causes downtime (or an evacuation of the premises) is one way that you can cut costs. Another, less-thought-of way automation saves money is through energy reduction. Poorly maintained equipment and malfunctioning machinery cause a spike in energy consumption. Automated systems let you monitor not only equipment but actual energy use as well, so you can eliminate energy waste.

Production Consistency

As the old saying goes, to err is human. In manufacturing and production centers, quality control and consistency in product output are very important. Human error and employee mistakes can lead to issues in these two vital areas. Machines and robots are programmed to perform repetitive tasks the same way every time (unless a machine breaks down). Having an automated system in place can reduce human errors and increase product consistency.

Safety and Reduction of Workplace Injuries

Machines are great at repetitive actions. Ask a human, however, to lift a box the same exact way two times in a row, and odds are, they won't be able to do so. Because of this lack of minute consistency, humans are more prone to workplace injuries than machines. Couple that with the fact that robots and assembly-line machinery can withstand thousands of pounds of pressure and lift (in some instances) tons of material without being harmed and you can see how automating a manufacturing plant can easily result in fewer worker injuries and overall workplace hazards.

Automated Systems and Computerized Maintenance Management

A key feature to automating a facility or manufacturing plant is the ability to integrate your automated system with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). When combined, you have a truly powerful tool that lets you control nearly every facet of your facility, from monitoring equipment performance to tracking the location of spare parts and assets. While there may be an initial investment to put automation to work in your facility, at the end of the day, when implemented properly, the system should easily be able to pay for itself and ultimately help increase profits for your organization.

About the Author 

Educational Outreach Writer at MAPCON

Lisa Richards is an experienced professional in the field of industrial management and is an avid blogger about maintenance management systems and productivity innovation. Over a span of 10 years, Lisa worked her way through various staff leadership positions in the manufacturing process until reaching the operations manager level at a construction and forestry equipment facility. Lisa excelled at increasing productivity while maintaining or lowering operating budgets for her plant sites. Richards has now joined the MAPCON team as an educational outreach writer in support of their efforts to inform maintenance management specialists about the advantages in marrying advanced maintenance software with cutting-edge facility and industrial management strategies.