Manufacturing is making a comeback in America, and that’s due in no small part to automation. But what are the benefits of automation, and why have so many businesses decided to make the switch? Read on for answers.
Increasing Efficiency to Stay Competitive
In difficult economic times, manufacturers have a lot of competition. They’re competing against overseas labor, against onshore competitors, and against their own inefficiencies. Automation provides a method for taking on all of these challengers simultaneously. Whether you’re measuring efficiency by revenue per employee or output per employee, those numbers are getting better. That makes U.S. manufacturing more attractive, and has helped transform reshoring from an anomaly to a movement. As companies renew their focus on continuous improvement, the adoption of automation is only going to increase.
Safety and Ergonomics
Many of the processes being automated are ones that used to pose a danger to the workers who performed them manually. But not all automation replaces workers. On the contrary, there’s a good deal of automation equipment designed to work in conjunction with and be operated by workers. By building this equipment to be ergonomically friendly, workers are subjected to a lot less wear and tear, reducing stress related injuries and injuries that result from heavy lifting and repetitive movement. Instituting these new manufacturing methods often necessitates new training for employees, but the result is a safer workplace and an often drastic reduction in workers’ comp claims.
This is an extension of “staying competitive.” Some automation efforts are driven by increased capacity, others by increased efficiency. We’re seeing both right now, but over the past few years the focus was mainly on increased efficiency. With markets down order volumes tended to shrink rather than grow, making increased capability a moot point and efficiency the word of the day. But regardless of which outcome is accomplished, the end result provides a benefit to a manufacturer’s bottom line.
As product manufacturers strive for continuous improvement, so must automation equipment providers. Every job we perform here at UMD Automated Systems presents us with a new challenge, and in solving that challenge we add to our ever growing tool belt. Learning from all of these projects enables us to constantly make our own equipment more efficient, allowing us to keep pace with our customers’ ambitious goals.