Around 20 years ago, an article about automation was accompanied by a cartoon. The cartoon was split into two halves; on one side was a factory worker saying to his colleague ‘no matter how far automation goes, they’ll always need people like us to push the buttons’, unaware that on the other side was a picture of the factory boss interviewing a robot in a suit.
Change can be overwhelming, especially in circumstances where workers see a loss of control over jobs, and the percieved need for human interaction gives way to automation, but we should remember that there are huge benefits to automation in industry.
Lower operating costs from automation
Depending on the task at hand, automation can perform the work of many people. As well as these reduced costs on labour, there are lower costs of heating an automated environment. Because of the streamlined processes that automation brings about, part accuracy is increased which results in less material waste.
An improvement in worker safety
There are many horror stories of jobs lost when plants were automated, which has been happening for decades now, and of course, automation can lead to consolidation of operations, meaning plant closures and their brutal impacts to local economies.
Whilst it might feel like a small compensation to the remaining workers, there has been a huge increase in worker safety due to automation.
The elimination or improvement of dangerous work such as lifting and moving heavy or unwieldy objects has been a key contributor to a reduction in back injuries. Automated pick-and-place systems, automated palletisers and vacuum hoist systems are all in place in many factories. Repetitive lifting tasks, andlifting more than 20 kg have become progressively rarer throughout industry.
Reduction in factory lead times
Automation can keep your process in-house, improve process control and significantly reduce lead times compared to outsourcing or going overseas.
Increased production throughput coupled with consistency
Automated machines and computers work at a constant and continuous pace, and they allow a factory to work 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. There’s less variability in the product produced under these conditions than with products produced manually, which leads to greater product control and quality. New products can be quickly introduced into the production process quickly, as new product programming can be done off-line without disrupting existing processes.
Increased system versatility
Automated systems can be easily re-tooled and repositioned for new production lines. The same equipment may be used on multiple production lines, as different automated tasks can be programmed into the same equipment without it having to be completely rebuilt.
Can automation create more jobs, not fewer?
During the industrial revolution in the UK, 98 percent of manual labour involved in weaving cloth was mechanised, and there was considerable worker unrest. But despite worker concerns, the number of textile workers exploded, as costs plummeted and demand grew. Jobs changed from hand-weaving to operating weaving machinery. The same principles stand true today. Automation generally eliminates dull, tedious and repetitive tasks, but it can bring about increased demand for goods as they get cheaper; and as the character in the cartoon said: ‘They’ll always need people like us to push the buttons’.
Get in touch with DualTEC
From our premises in Keighley, West Yorkshire – we design, build and distribute cutting edge control panels to aid factory automation for companies across the UK. If you have any questions whatsoever, regarding our automotive control panel services or indeed any of our other services – please don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of the team at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call on: 01535 609314