Automation solutions are cropping up in practically every industry. Manufacturers use technology to automate tasks and processes that include assembly, packaging, material handling, machining, robotic welding, advanced inspections, and shipping. Initially designed to increase productivity by taking on repetitive tasks that humans once performed, automation has now shifted the nature of manufacturing work by increasing productivity and the skill levels needed to maintain that productivity.
As the country shifts toward normalcy with the COVID-19 pandemic waning, unemployment rates are declining. But business owners across the country face the challenge of finding enough workers to meet increasing demand.
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When you’re preparing for a first manufacturing automation project, it probably seems like there’s always more to learn about types of robots, end-of-arm-tools, how systems come together, and all the additional equipment that comes into play. Each new example you see can simultaneously provide inspiration and leave you with even more questions.
Automation and robotics use specialized equipment to perform defined physical tasks, like packing products in boxes or spot welding metal frames. Sometimes we hear “automation” and think “robot.” With a range of payload and reach capacities, easy programming, articulated joints, and high speed, robots are a clear choice for applications requiring precise movements and repeatability. It’s no wonder they’re becoming more and more popular among manufacturers of all sizes, especially smaller, user-friendly collaborative robots.
Companies always approach capital expenditures with great care, but especially now as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. While we think this is actually a good time to invest in automation, we understand it might feel risky in this time of uncertainty and changing markets.
In Part 1, we looked at ways automation changes the tasks and work at a manufacturing facility. In this post, we'll discuss the human side.
Robotics and automation affect workplace culture in terms of how work is done but also how employees view their work and their value to the company. Most will be accepting of new equipment and procedures, some sooner and some later. If morale and workplace culture are positive, the changes go more smoothly.
We think it’s worth putting some thought into how you introduce, train, and incorporate automation into your organization. Morale is highest when workers feel their concerns are heard, that they’re valued, and that the company wants them to succeed. After all, you can always replace or upgrade machines, but your employees are the heart of your business.
Here are three things to keep in mind when automation equipment and people mix in the workplace:
Across industries, workplace culture is a hot topic. The culture at your own workplace might be “I know it when I see it” - hard to describe in specific terms but noticeable when it changes. Some ways to think of workplace culture are:
- What it feels like to work somewhere
- How the work environment affects each person’s ability to get their work done
- The general organization of people and tasks
- Employees’ camaraderie and sense of community or support
Automation drives cultural changes in all aspects of work. In this post, we’ll talk about how automation affects culture in terms of the work that’s done: tasks and efficiencies as well as the overall approach to manufacturing. In part 2 of this blog, we look at how automation affects the human side of culture.
Electric resistance welding, commonly called spot welding, is an excellent candidate for automation and robotics. It’s common in automotive and vehicle assembly for frames and body components, where the average vehicle can contain thousands of welds.
As automation and robotic technology continue to evolve, spot welding can be done in ever-smaller physical spaces, integrated with other parts of the assembly process, and in proximity to human operators. The result is consistent, repeatable welding output in less time and with high levels of quality.
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.
Engineers have technical knowledge and an eye for detail, especially when it comes to improving a system or process. If you’ve determined that automation equipment can benefit your facility, it’s probably very clear to you how and why it’s a worthwhile investment. But the benefits and outcomes may not be as obvious to decision makers and management – the very people who approve the purchase. Because you’re the one who sees the full picture of what an automation project can accomplish, your task is much like making a sales pitch, convincing management to buy in to your solution.