When the topic of automation comes up cutting costs is always part of the conversation. More often than not people do not understand the full scope of what this means.
"I need to cut costs what can automation do for me?"
Labor tends to be the first card that gets thrown down when this question is asked. And it is a large factor in automation and cost savings no question. But there are other factors that carry a lot of weight that should not be over looked as well. Labor is a big part of the puzzle and should be near a given by now.
How much material goes into your recycle bin each week or month? There was a large appliance manufacturer that was scrapping $60,000 a month in stainless steel. Granted it was a large manufacturer but still that is a single facility and a lot of material. This may well be an extreme but even if you are 10% that is still $6,000 a month. Automation helps to reduce the material that gets scrapped. By doing the finish you need when the fabrication is done you can save much if not all of the material.
Again by doing the finish you need after other processes are complete you greatly reduce the rework. If you buy prefinished material with peel off coating, you have seen the parts with bits of the coating peeled up or off. We all know what that means to the part and finish. The part was dropped or another part scraped across the top and so on. That means you have a defect that has to be repaired. Now you get to try and match the finish on the material when you started. All of those defect repairs add up and slow things down.
Cost of raw material?
Again, if you are finishing the part after the other processes, you can do any finish you need at will. You don't have to spend the added price for prefinished material. This also gives much more flexibility in where you get your material.
If you have skilled welders they need to be welding. When the welder is tasked with grinding down welds or finishing parts he is not welding. Same with people running a press or any other operation. If they are tasked with finishing work it reduces the time they have to do the skilled task they are hired to do. Moving the finishing to automation takes the task away from the skilled staff so they can do the work they were hired to do. It also helps you to keep that staff as they are free of the grinding they probably do not like doing. Letting the staff be a bit happier while you get the skilled staff focused on their primary tasks is a win - win. You don't want to pay a skilled welders salary to have him grinding half of his day.
A question to ask, If you could make more could you sell more? If I sell say 10 enclosures a day is that all you can sell or the limits of what you can make? If you could increase production by 50% could you sell them? Could you take on that extra work you could not before? Automation lets you clear the areas that slow down production and in turn getting product out the door. Being able to push more product out the door is not cutting costs directly but it increases revenue as a whole.
Then there are others I place together.
Cleanliness is one, you automate and contain the debris putting far less in the air and on the floor. Same with noise as it being contained cuts down on the noise levels in the shop. Floor space is another. Pulling a bunch of manual operations into an automated cell compresses things down to a smaller total foot print.
There is a long list of factors to look at when it comes to the cutting costs topic. Its not just about reducing the number of staff. Being more efficient with the staff you have can in some cases be the ultimate goal. When you look into automating finishing processes you need to back up a few steps and look at the situation as a whole. Do not focus in to a single point as you can lose sight of the bigger picture. Work with someone who can help you see that larger picture and the process as a whole. Be sure to ask questions and know there is not a one size fits all answer.
If you have questions or need some guidance on automating finishing please feel free to ask any questions you have.
AM Machinery Sales