Automation Trends in the Industrial Marketplace

Automation Trends in the Industrial Marketplace

Simply put, industrial automation can be defined as computers, robots, information technologies, and other control systems that handle different processes and machinery in an industry.  Global Sales of industrial robots are growing at an average rate of 15% per year.  According to a recent press release from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the number of industrial robots deployed worldwide will increase to around 2.6 million units by 2019.  Broken down into sectors, around 70 % of industrial robots are currently at work in the automotive, electronics, and metal / machinery industries.


This automated application applies adhesive with extreme
measures of repeatability & consistency.

Why is automation growing so fast in manufacturing?  There are a number of factors that contribute to these figures, including, but not limited to:

  • Rising labor costs: This includes direct labor, healthcare and benefits, indirect labor, and the difficulty in finding and keeping skilled labor.  A 2015 survey conducted by The Fabricator (A publication of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association) titled “What Keeps you up at Night”, concluded that the majority of fabricators are worried about finding skilled workers, particularly with replacing many baby boomers who are on the verge of retirement.  With that being said, 32% of these fabricators (in 2015) said automation was the number one area they expected to devote major resources in within the next 3 to 5 years.
  • Improved performance: The Boston Consulting Group projects that the future cost trends of automation & robots in the industrial sector will continue to decrease.  Project management costs, system engineering costs (e.g., programming, installation, etc.), peripherals (e.g. safety barriers/systems, sensors), and the cost of the robot itself are all project to decrease about 22% from 2014 to 2025.  While automation costs go down, the performance of these systems are projected to increase 5% per year.
  • Automation has never been easier: Automation technologies continue to mature and advance; especially in sensor & motion control.  Talent in this field is also quickly advancing.  With the availability of advanced programming & robotics education, a lot more people are opting to study these programs.

 

Some manufacturers who are relatively new to these advanced technologies might have questions regarding when to look into automation for their applications.  Graco, an industry leader in paint finishing and fluid dispense equipment, came up with something called the 3 D’s of Automation:

  1. Dull : When you have difficulty finding and keeping skilled workers for the position.
  2. Dirty : When the work area is extremely unpleasant, dirty, and requires workers to wear paint suits and respirators.
  3. Dangerous : When your workers are in an area that is essentially a standing bomb, dragging around a hose, walking on sticky or slippery floors, wearing bulky suits, navigating around heavy, moving objects.

 

Automation brings many advantages when integrated properly.  The following are a few benefits that automation can provide in a paint finishing process:

  • Reduced direct labor costs: Average $30K / person / shift.
  • Improved quality: Less rework, lower warranty expense, more satisfied customers.
  • Reduced material usage: 15-30% reduction, more precise control and consistency, less overspray.
  • Increase safety and reduce liability: Eliminates work place incidents.
  • Reduce healthcare costs: Injuries, fumes, repetitive motions, etc.
  • Reduce waste / VOCs: Robots are more accurate, controlling overspray, reduced consumable expense, environmental permitting, VOC abatement.
  • Reduce energy costs: Lower make-up air flow, lower heating costs, etc.
  • Reduce indirect costs: Trainings, meetings, breaks, vacations, sick days / no shows, worker prep.
  • Increase production: Robots are faster and more accurate than humans; robots don’t take breaks or experience fatigue.
  • Overall, improved performance, productivity, profitability.

 

Industrial automation has found more and more acceptance from a wide array of industries since a lot of the benefits outweigh the disadvantages; especially from a ROI standpoint.  With advances in technology and education, forecasts and trends of automation in the industrial marketplace continue to surge.  If your plant is looking to learn a little bit more about industrial automation trends and/or automation equipment specific to your application(s), contact C.H. Reed to start the discussion.