Perhaps the most vivid quantum leap in manufacturing technology is Henry Ford’s development of the assembly line, a concept he borrowed from the dynamic and demanding meat-packing industry. The industrial automation trend started rolling in December 1913. Today, it would be difficult to identify a single industry that could not benefit immensely from converting to automated processes.
Granted, by today’s automation standards, Ford’s moving assembly line is the most rudimentary of industrial concepts. But it pioneered the drive for high productivity and was the first step in today’s dominant trend of “lean manufacturing” – modern industrial management techniques that focus on reducing critical takt time. Lean manufacturing optimizes takt (the production rate required to meet customer demand) and eliminates all possible waste (including production time) for maximum profitability.
Ford’s assembly line reduced the takt time to produce a car from more than 12 hours to just 2-1/2 hours. It began the trend of manufacturing technology innovations that have brought us into the advanced digital manufacturing era known today as “Industry 4.0.” Today’s advanced automation processes allow Ford to produce 16 vehicles every 60 seconds worldwide. Below we’ll look at five advantages of automation that can reap similar production improvements for various industries across the board.
While industrial automation has evolved tremendously over the past century, the all-important bottom line is still the key motivator for an enterprise to develop fully automated processes that reduce costs. Total cost is the sum of raw material, labor, energy consumed, and waste. Add to that today’s competitive markets, incredible consumer demand, and the cost of products needing to reach market in time.
Advances in 2D and 3D machine vision have led to faster pick-and-place machines and vision-guided robots can tackle tedious, repeatable manufacturing tasks at a continuous pace that a human counterpart cannot match. Complex work such as bead dispensing and inspection can be fully automated with advanced 3D vision-guided robotic techniques, and they never need a coffee break, vacation time, or sick days.
Fast inspection is the key to efficient production with high-quality control standards. Food and pharmaceutical are among the most heavily regulated industries worldwide. The cost of compliance with rigorous regulatory inspection, data archiving, traceability, and reporting to regulatory agencies such as the FDA is significant. Glass bottles, tubes, labeling, and ID inspections are all processes that can be streamlined with machine vision-based automation.
Proper packaging and sealing are critical in the food industry, and machine vision inspection techniques allow reliable quality control at a frame rate that would be a me
re blur to the human eye. Rapidly produced continuous-run products such as medical tubing require inspection of tube integrity and inside/outside diameters, easily accomplished with machine vision at speeds up to 600 feet per minute.
To name just two examples, complex manufacturing processes in the aerospace and automotive industries require advanced automation to detect defects before they can cause catastrophic failure further downline. Data capture technology is used to gauge critical dimensions and verify the proper locations of essential components such as weld nuts, springs, a
nd fasteners. The precision and speeds far exceed manual inspection techniques.
4. Improved Human Safety
Vision-guided robots can take on hazardous work, removing human workers from the danger zone. Tasks like cutting and grinding, sawing, and flash removal can be more dangerous when human fatigue is factored in, especially in an aging workforce. Automating these tasks can prevent many of the nearly 3 million non-fatal workforce injuries, as reported by industries to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021.
The computers and sensing networks that make industrial automation possible also provide the means for precise machine monitoring and highly effective predictive maintenance (PdM) solutions. Factory managers and plant supervisors can use sensor-based data acquisition to avoid problems with all business-critical machines and electrical equipment.
Reducing downtime due to human factors is one of the solutions our VisionVault Package provides. This user-traceability and data-archiving software centralizes password control to minimize security risks to machine vision systems. Untrained personnel can be prevented from accessing operations they are unqualified for, and a disgruntled employee cannot cause a shutdown with a malicious password change.
At Motion Ai, we provide turnkey machine vision solutions that smoothly integrate with your existing manufacturing processes. Robotics, area scans, line scans, and 2D and 3D vision technologies offer turnkey solutions to the rapid production of 11,000 parts per minute. When you’re ready to get your industrial operations up to speed in the age of Industry 4.0, don’t hesitate to contact us.