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It’s undeniable that industrial automation has brought increased efficiency, accuracy, flexibility, and dependability to the workplace. While automation will save time and effort for many more businesses in the future, specific industries have already reaped the benefits of converting at least some of their processes.
No matter the type of industry, automation can improve operations and allow companies to be much more competitive. Robots can work more quickly, use consumable materials evenly, reduce errors, and allow human workers to complete more high-level tasks. While they can be used for tasks at individual workstations for one part of a process, they can also be integrated into systems that link multiple processes together for more efficiency. All of this leads to higher quality, less waste, and greater return on investment.
Here are a few examples of industries making great use of robots and automation:
The automotive industry has been using industrial robots for decades. Initially the robots were massive machines, working inside cages as far from humans as possible. They were also generally “fixed” designs, built for a single specific task.
Thanks to advances in technology and programming, the automakers are investing in smaller robots that are safe around humans. They’re also flexible and can be programmed to switch between a group of tasks or retooled for redeployment in another part of the facility.
As in the past, the thousands of components that make up each vehicle are part of a complex manufacturing process, and automation is making it easier and more efficient. Some examples include:
- Robotic welders: Industrial robots carry out spot welding on body panels, while others weld brackets and mounts. The robotic welders can position the torch in the same orientation on every cycle. On-board data collection monitors and maintains critical welding parameters such as voltage, weld speed, or shielding gas supply levels.
- Installation: A robotic arm with a vision camera system can install windshields, door panels, and fenders accurately because it can “see” what it’s doing and line up components accurately.
- Assembly: Robotic arms can assemble smaller parts such as motors and pumps quickly. They can also drive screws and mount wheels.
- Painting and coating: Robots spray paints, coatings, and sealants evenly, saving human workers from a toxic environment. Because the sprayer is programmed to use a precise amount of product for each unit, it’s possible to use less over time and achieve more consistent application.
Industrial automation and robots in the electronics manufacturing industry can replace human workers and perform tasks more quickly and efficiently than their human counterparts. Some of their tasks include packaging components and products, soldering on circuit boards, pick-and-place sorting, and visual and physical inspection.
Robotic systems are ideal in the production of electronic devices, semiconductors, PCBs, and other products. Features such as vision and proximity sensors allow the robots to perform repetitive and delicate tasks, facilitating the handling of fragile devices with the utmost precision.
Industrial automation has virtually monopolized packaging processes in chemical plants. Bottling, bagging, and labeling are completed quickly and with high accuracy without the risks of human error, which becomes more likely throughout a shift. Robots can also be used for close inspection that would otherwise be too tedious or expensive for humans to do. These machines run on a regular schedule, require no breaks, and take up a small footprint.
A global population projected to be almost 10 billion by 2050 has many wondering how we will feed that many people.
Automation makes farms increasingly more efficient with drones, autonomous tractors, harvest robots, automatic watering systems, and robotic seeding and weeding. The primary goal of industrial automation in agriculture is to take over the mundane tasks done by humans. Here is how farmers are utilizing the relatively new technologies:
- Harvest automation has evolved into a gentle process that picks fruits and vegetables without damaging them.
- Autonomous tractors are controlled remotely or pre-programmed with a planned route through growing areas. This can be an efficient way to irrigate, fertilize, seed, or weed row-crops.
- Seeding and weeding are done by robots that can seed quickly and weed accurately, reducing labor and pesticide usage and exposure.
Do You see Automation in Your Company’s Future?
From specific equipment to an entire production line, industrial automation can benefit just about any type of company in any industry. Do you think your business could benefit from automation or could become even more competitive in your industry? Contact our team to start a conversation. With over 20 years of automation experience, we're experts at what we do and would love to work with you to build a solution that works with your business.