Factors Keeping Manufacturers From Adopting Automation

Factors Keeping Manufacturers from Adopting Automation

Automation has become paramount for companies striving to maintain a competitive edge in the 21st century. As industry giants like Siemens demonstrate the immense possibilities of automation across various business verticals, manufacturers are urged to think comprehensively about its incorporation. Automation offers a multitude of benefits, from driving successful scaling to optimizing administrative support, facilitating employee upskilling, and improving efficiency and productivity.

Despite these compelling advantages, many producers have been hesitant to embrace groundbreaking automation technologies. In this article, we will explore the reasons why some manufacturers are not embracing automation.

3 Barriers to Automation Adoption

Manufacturers across the globe are well aware of the potential benefits of automation. Yet, they do not incorporate it into their processes. The reason varies from one company to the next. However, here are the top three roadblocks preventing wider automation integration.

1. Lack of Capital

The cost of installing and integrating automation tools and services poses a significant financial hurdle for manufacturers. It requires a substantial investment in advanced technology and time-intensive training of skilled workers.

Unfortunately, economic uncertainty has exacerbated cash flow challenges, leaving companies in “survival mode” with limited resources to allocate toward innovation. As a result, manufacturers face the daunting task of balancing the potential benefits of automation against their immediate financial constraints.

2. Resistance to Change

Many veteran manufacturers across industries have perfected their craft over decades, specializing in machining parts with great success. Due to their long-standing expertise, they see little need to change their established operational methods and remain loyal to their tried-and-true processes.

Additionally, the lack of reliable and independent research leaves a lack of compelling and convincing evidence for business owners. Automation companies often cite their own data during pitches, leaving a scarcity of trustworthy information about the specific capabilities of new technologies and processes.

Consequently, convincing senior management to invest significant sums in automation becomes difficult due to the transparency around ROI.

3. Low Demand

The true value of automation emerges when dealing with higher volume orders and repetitive tasks, where efficiency gains and scalability become apparent.

In many manufacturing shops, the primary focus revolves around producing custom, precision components. Most customers require prototypes or engage in low-to-mid-volume production. These specialized orders do not involve the level of repetition and scale that would justify investing in automating the production process.

For instance, automated conveyor systems are excellent for efficient material transportation in high-volume production environments. However, the implementation of such systems requires significant upfront costs and customization to fit specific product dimensions and workflows. If a company operates primarily in low-volume production or specializes in custom-made, unique products, the lack of substantial volume hinders the feasibility of automating material transportation processes.

The Practical Approach to Adopting Automation

Manufacturing leaders may initially hesitate to embrace automation due to the factors above. However, it is important to recognize that consistent improvement is vital for staying competitive in the market. The good news is that you can take a gradual approach toward automation rather than viewing advanced technologies as all-or-nothing investments.

Here are the steps:

  • Integrate CNC Machines: Integrate CNC machines into your operations—they are essential for a healthy and thriving production shop. These machines streamline operations and ensure precise manufacturing processes.
  • Invest in Multi-Axis Machines: Take the next step by investing in multi-axis machines. These advanced machines combine milling and turning operations, offering seamless and versatile machining capabilities. By doing so, you can maximize efficiency and productivity in your shop.
  • Automate Backend and Frontend Work: Streamline your operations by automating both backend and frontend tasks. Customize your enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to automate backend processes, such as inventory management. Additionally, leverage automation for front-end activities like estimating to enhance efficiency and expedite quote generation.
  • Integrate Predictive Maintenance: Optimize machine performance and minimize downtime by implementing automated machine monitoring and maintenance systems. With these systems in place, you can proactively manage upkeep and extend the lifespan of your tools, ensuring smooth operations.
  • Incorporate Robotics: Enhance inspection and finishing processes through the use of robotics. Embrace the power of robotic arms and cobots (compact robotic arms) to accelerate tasks like thread checking and deburring. This integration of automation tools not only improves productivity but also enhances precision.

By following these steps, you can gradually embrace automation in your machine shop.

Comanufacturing automation

To thrive in a competitive industry, manufacturers must embrace and integrate modern technologies. The evolving landscape demands it, as automation becomes indispensable in the face of labor shortages and skills gaps.

Machinists of all sizes can seamlessly incorporate automation into their operations using a variety of tools, including installing conveying equipment, employing robot arms to weld and deburr, and utilizing CNC plasma tables. By combining the power of advanced technologies with human ingenuity, you can meet customer demands and achieve your goals.

 Simon Patterson

Simon Patterson

Simon Patterson is the owner and founder of Squickmon's Engineering & Engineering. With over 15 years of fabrication and manufacturing experience, alongside a mechanical engineering degree, he knows exactly what it takes to create a quality product for small fabrication shops as well as large industrial manufacturing companies. He set out to create a company that stands by their products with confidence as well as integrity. His goal was to build a company with a strong foundation, quality product, satisfied customers, and a product that is 100 percent designed and built in the USA.

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