COVID-19 has created a unique opportunity for you to show your value by developing and executing your company’s long-term goals. Many companies are on a spending freeze due to the uncertainties generated by the Pandemic, but this doesn’t need to stop you from planning and scoping projects to setup a long-term ROI when demand reaches its prior to COVID-19 levels.

Anyone who has worked in a manufacturing environment knows that Continuous Improvement projects are constantly set aside to prioritize Safety, Quality, and Unplanned Downtime Repairs (aka Band-Aids). Although these are required to keep our employees safe, keep our customers happy, and fulfill our short-term demand we constantly overlook the bigger picture and add Band-Aid solutions. Not to mention, individual performance targets are often tied to Continuous Improvement as it impacts the bottom line.

With Continuous Improvement in mind, many companies struggle with where to start automating. With that in mind, here are a few tips that might just catapult your career:

Start with ROI – review expenses and understand the economics

  • Safety: ergonomics, workplace injuries, lost time
  • Quality: Raw Material Defect, First Pass Yield, Scrap Material, Customer Complaints
  • Labor Cost: Manual Processes, Healthcare/Benefits, Shift limitations/Overhead requirements
  • Part Cost: material considerations, manufacturing process considerations for easier part production/assembly/packaging
  • Capacity: are you utilizing your equipment assets, are you experiencing bottlenecks
  • Competitive Advantage: what do you do that separates you from the competition and how you can widen the gap
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Find the low hanging fruit – not all automation projects are created equal. Robots, Vision, and Custom Machines can range from $50,000 to several million dollars. Start with the low hanging fruit

  • Inspection – visual defect inspections, gauging/measurement, color, OCR/OCV/Barcode
  • Assembly – low dexterity assembly, screwing, welding
  • Packaging – pick and place, labeling, palletizing
  • Machine Tending – operators loading and unloading machines

Develop a 3-5 year plan – now it’s time to develop your business plan and pitch

  • Start with the quick wins and low hanging fruit
  • Identify and expand on your competitive advantage with custom machinery
  • Roll the returns into funding future automation projects
  • Constantly look for new opportunities and reward workers for surfacing ideas
  • Lean on Automation Integrators to identify, scope, and implement projects
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Execute – you will undoubtedly hit some resistance; this is where you will separate yourself from the pack.

Outdated equipment and manual processing steps are the norm for many manufacturing outfits. Technology is ever evolving and if you are not constantly evolving with it then your job and your company will undoubtedly face extinction. Can you imagine a future that does not involve a high degree of factory automation?

Many times I hear Manufacturers that are ready to implement automation only to find that it is expensive, time consuming, and cumbersome and the management does not approve; however, the most successful employees can make a sound business case for automation and lean on external resources to help scope projects, uncover savings, and execute turnkey solutions.

Rest assured that if you follow these guidelines you will establish yourself as a big-thinker and see your compensation reflect your value to the company. PM me if I can support your goals in any way.

Published by Chad Stroud

Chad Stroud