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When is Automation a Good Idea?

Knowing when automation is a worthwhile investment for a business can be difficult. Returns can be difficult to quantify, and if the status quo is working well, why change it?

Nic Radford, Co-founder and Chief Technical Officer of Houston Mechatronics, has some advice in his most recent interview, where he offers insight on when automation makes the most sense for a business. Here are the use cases where he suggests automation might be worth the investment.

You want to improve the quality of the product

Automation can make a large difference in product quality and consistency. Whether you use recipes to ensure consistent parameters or monitor machine output to catch improperly manufactured parts, automation offers many ways that businesses can improve the quality of what they produce. Vision systems can rapidly inspect products, and historical records of trends can demonstrate when a machine is creating more damaged parts and may need maintenance or better operator training. Output can also be improved to directly impact the bottom line with a higher quality product. Automation is key to achieving higher quality products in industrial processes.

You want to reduce operation costs or material costs

Automation empowers businesses to help realize reduced costs. This can be achieved, for example, by shifting human labor to more cognitive functions such as machine operations, reducing material waste through better machine efficiency, or reducing man hours spent keeping records and performing audits. Through monitoring machine performance with a SCADA/HMI solution like InduSoft Web Studio, machines can be better maintained or replaced before costly problems occur.

You want to keep employees and machines safe

Industrial automation can be dangerous to employees. Machine operators run the risk of inadvertently damaging machines or product by improperly following procedure. Automation can provide safeguards to prevent industrial accidents and damage to machines and products by ensuring that the proper materials and procedures are being used. This can be done, for example, by ensuring operators use multi-touch interfaces to verify that their hands are clear of cutting and crushing surfaces. Alarms can warn employees of unsafe atmospheric conditions and temperatures, and automated safety shutdown systems can help limit or avoid harm to employees. Predictive maintenance can alert employees when machines need servicing, and trends may alert operators that a machine or line is slowly reaching the conditions of a shut-down.

Evaluating use cases for automation

If you decide it’s worth accomplishing any of the above goals, then it’s a good idea to fully evaluate the need for automation. You can do this by contacting a System Integrator that can build an automation system, or by asking for a demonstration of the capabilities of automation software, such as InduSoft Web Studio, from an expert.

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