Is Your Manufacturing Factory Ready for Robots?

June 17, 2015 | Robotic Manufacturing

Marlin Steel's factory automationHere at Marlin Steel, automated manufacturing equipment such as steel wire bending robots has helped to make the manufacture of custom steel wire racks and baskets faster, safer, and more consistent than ever before.

Despite the benefits of manufacturing automation, many manufacturers are not yet taking advantage of robots in their factories. There are many reasons cited, such as the expense of investing in more advanced forms of automation, or the fear that robots would completely replace people on the manufacturing floor.

However, the benefits of manufacturing automation far outweigh the costs, and not just for the owners of the manufacturing plant. Front-line employees can also benefit greatly from the adoption of manufacturing robotics.

For example, manufacturing robots can handle the most physically demanding and dangerous tasks, such as bending steel, allowing workers to take a supervisory role that keeps them out of harm’s way. Additionally, workers using automated manufacturing equipment can be several times more productive than manual laborers, allowing manufacturers to provide higher compensation to their workers.

Before you can get the most benefit from including manufacturing automation for your own factory, there may be some preparation needed. To get your factory ready for manufacturing robots, here is an Automation Preparedness Checklist of few things you might need to implement:

Automation Preparedness Checklist Item #1: Free Space on the Factory Floor

Naturally, whenever you’re installing new equipment on your factory floor, you need to make sure that there’s room for it first. It doesn’t do you much good to buy the latest in robotics technology if there’s no room for it on your production floor.

When ordering new equipment, be sure to know its operational footprint in addition to its actual size. Some pieces of manufacturing tech might need more room than indicated by the base of the machine, as there may be moving armatures or parts that occasionally extend beyond the limits of the device’s base.

New equipment should have enough room to operate safely without the risk of interference from other machinery. Workers should have plenty of space to walk without having to come within reach of the machine’s moving parts as well.

Automation Preparedness Checklist Item #2: Your Power Supply

Is your power supply robust enough to handle robotics?While many manufacturers would like to think that the basic power supply that comes with their factory property should be enough to run whatever kind of equipment they need, the truth is that their power grid might not be robust enough to handle the heavy draw that running multiple pieces of factory automation requires.

For example, up until recently, Marlin Steel had to run extra generators on-site to supply enough electricity to our equipment to keep it all running on days where our manufacturing capacity was nearing peak load. Thanks to new renovations made during a factory expansion, however, Marlin was able to expand the capacity of its power grid sevenfold.

Why sevenfold? Because, it was estimated that it would take at least this much extra output to cover the power needs of all the existing equipment and the new equipment that would be added during the expansion.

When ordering new manufacturing equipment, check the power draw of that equipment against your power grid’s current load and maximum capacity. If you find that you need extra power generation, check with your electric company to see if you should upgrade your power supply, or if using onsite power generators would make more sense.

Automation Preparedness Checklist Item #3: Employee Training/Knowledge

Even in a heavily automated manufacturing process, having trained employees who know the equipment is a must. Employees that are skilled in the use of the manufacturing robotics that you’re planning on bringing to bear can help you get the biggest benefit from your investment in new equipment.

So, to prepare your factory floor for new manufacturing automation, it’s important to get your employees familiar with the operation of the equipment. Manufacturers of factory automation often provide training courses in the use of their products, which can help prepare your workers to take advantage of the new automation.

To take this a step further, you can provide your employees with the opportunity to take educational courses and earn a degree in a field related to your business. For example, many of Marlin’s employees have mechanical engineering degrees. The knowledge earned while taking their engineering courses have helped Marlin’s employee gain a deeper understanding of the challenges involved in creating custom steel baskets for different applications.

Knowledge in employees can translate into improved productivity and quality of results, a fact which is proven daily on the Marlin Steel factory floor as workers find innovative solutions to production challenges.

These are just a few of the things that can help a manufacturer prepare for integrating new factory automation into their production. Learn how Marlin Steel helped other companies improve production with precision-engineered steel wire forms by reading the case study at the link below:

Download Marlin Steel's case study!