We can all agree the current COVID-19 global pandemic and the economic, employment, and social upheaval it’s causing is disastrous. So much is uncertain from day to day and it seems the outlook for health and business changes with each new news story. Business leaders might instinctively decide to table many of their plans and focus on maintaining the status quo for the foreseeable future.
According to recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), 53.1 percent of manufacturers anticipate a change in their operations due to the current COVID19 pandemic. You may already be experiencing changes to your business as you adjust to the financial impact, worker health and safety protections, supply chain disruptions, or decreases in new orders. At the same time, shortages of specific products including medical devices and protective equipment and related supplies means some manufacturers have new opportunities to expand production or make new items, if only temporarily.
If you’re a small or medium-sized manufacturer and your throughput, labor force, and component quality are optimal and continuously improving, don’t bother reading any further. But if you have any challenges in these areas, and if you’ve ever wondered how to address them effectively, we may have some ideas for you.
Automation in manufacturing isn’t exactly new but companies are finding new ways to apply it all the time. New and advancing technology including sensors, vision cameras, and collaborative robots (or cobots as they’re often called) expand possibilities from aircraft manufacturing to food processing and beyond. Across the board, flexible automation is a priority, along with worker safety and efficient production.
There are many reasons to consider integrating automation equipment into your welding manufacturing processes. Whether you’re already engaged in welding operations at your facility or expanding your capabilities to include it, welding is especially well-suited to being automated, often through robotics.
By providing a high-quality, consistent product you build brand loyalty and reputation, on which most manufacturers pride themselves. But, quality costs time, money, and staffing resources. What’s more, in many industries (e.g. food and beverage, pharma, automotive/aviation), quality is critical to safety so you can’t afford to make inspection errors.
Even if you don’t work in the HR world, you’ve probably heard of cross training employees. This method of teaching workers to do more than one job equips them with multiple skill sets and increases their value to their team, allowing them to fill in or provide reinforcement on an as-needed basis. It’s seen in settings as diverse as the corner coffee shop or a municipal public safety department. When employees can perform their own job as well as the key skills for other positions, it adds a level of flexibility that improves response time and productivity. What you might not know is there are similar benefits in applying this approach to automation equipment in manufacturing.
Cyber attacks that make the evening news usually feature large organizations and often announce the theft of personal information. While they rarely make headlines, these kinds of attacks can, and do, happen to smaller businesses too. In these cases, not only are your employees’ personal data at risk, but so are “smart” machines and equipment in the Industrial Internet of Things. The key to understanding cybersecurity in a manufacturing setting is being aware that once a device is connected to the internet (even indirectly through a company network) it becomes vulnerable to attack.
Increasingly, large and small factories are incorporating “smart” sensors, drives, and other monitoring components into their equipment. These connected devices can transmit production and operation data to a control room computer for real-time monitoring.
You probably know that automating some or all of your manufacturing processes can increase production, reduce waste, modernize your facility, and even boost revenue. But did you know it can help you expand your pool of potential employees and retain your current ones for longer? Let’s examine how automation can enable aging workers and persons with disabilities to carry out industrial and manufacturing work.