Implement Automation with Confidence
Automation trends indicate that by 2030, 8.5% of all manufacturing jobs will be performed by machines. This trend is even working its way into fast food restaurants and tire changing services. However, if you’re looking to enhance your end of line processing with automated packaging equipment, consider all the implications of incorporating automation before you move forward.
If you’re facing numerous challenges, automation alone cannot solve every one of them. Automation works best when it focuses on a specific task or a simple series of repeatable tasks. Take packaging itself for example. You may need to form hundreds (or even thousands) of boxes quickly and consistently for a particular product, so investing in an automated packaging machine makes sense. However, even in that one process of “packaging”, numerous sub-tasks (folding, filling, sealing, etc.) are often needed to complete that greater task.
Here are a few points to consider to ensure automating your packaging line provides the maximum benefits.
1. Identify Machine Redundancies
Automated packaging machinery requires a significant upfront investment. If done properly, this investment can be recouped through the efficiency savings. However, the initial cost may tempt businesses to bypass a few best practices to help get their automated systems up and running more quickly.
One area that often gets cut is budgets for upkeep. Automation means repairs and maintenance will also need to be conducted regularly. If you’re not adequately prepared for this, you could be facing potentially damaging downtime as you try to create workarounds on the spot to address an unexpected breakdown due to wear and tear.
As you transition into automation, get to know your machines, and implement redundancies throughout your packaging line in advance. This way, you’ll be much better prepared to address areas that could be handled manually in the event of a system breakdown. If you’re really proactive, you could have replacement parts of the most critical pieces already on hand so you can immediately switch to a backup if something happens that shuts down your production line.
2. Simplify Product Packaging
Packaging is vitally important for two reasons. One, most people make purchasing decisions based on the appearance of outer packaging. Two, packaging also serves a highly functional purpose by protecting the contents inside. The best packaging solution is a balance of aesthetic appearance and solid engineering.
Not all packaging designs can be automated efficiently. Achieving that balance with an automated packaging machine might necessitate rethinking your packaging design. Prioritize simplicity and attractiveness. A simple design will enable the process to be automated much more efficiently. A clean, attractive outer packaging will please your customers and entice them to purchase your product again.
3. Calculate Production Speed
Every automated packaging machine requires a certain amount of time to complete its task. As mentioned earlier, there are usually many other sub-tasks involved in the greater task of “packaging.” Those tasks will probably be completed at different rates.
If some of these tasks are going to be completed manually and some automated, it will be helpful to know in advance what kind of production rates the machines (or people) are capable of. If several machines will be involved in the end-of-line process, then knowing their production rates and capacity is even more valuable.
Before you escalate the production line with automation, you should account for any differences in production rates. Make adjustments such as adding appropriate accumulation towards the front of the product line or putting slower automated processes towards the end.
4. Solicit Employee Input
Automation is ultimately a means to solve a particular problem. One way to gauge whether an automated packaging machine will truly benefit an end-of-line process before you implement it is to see how it will directly or indirectly serve the needs of your production and the skill level of your team. No two facilities are exactly the same, so it’s unwise to think that because one automated solution worked well in one facility it will necessarily work well in another.
Having feedback and buy-in from those who will be impacted most by these changes will increase the likelihood that the changes will be beneficial. If you can go into a process improvement phase collaboratively and with an open mind, you will not only directly get an early read on any potential friction points, but you also get the added assurance that the solution you want to implement is the right solution. If you have any sense that it’s not right, you are well-positioned to make changes before any costly equipment has been purchased or installed.
5. Expect Future Changes
No packaging process (automated, manual , or combination of both) lasts forever. There will be a day or a time when something better comes along. Although having an optimistic outlook can have its advantages, having a contingency plan for if (when) things change is also a good business strategy.
This is especially true with an automated packaging machine. There will come a time when you need to upgrade again. A smart way to introduce any improvements today is to proactively prepare for adjustments that will inevitably happen tomorrow. Another commonly used phrase for this approach is future-proofing.
As you consider all aspects of your automation efforts, think about how you are able to future-proof your new processes against other possible upgrades. In considering the compatibility of your machine now, you will avoid having to face the unpleasant possibility of having to rip everything out to do it again later.
We’re Here If You Need Help
At Wayne Automation, we want to help you achieve the highest level of efficiency throughout your entire end of line process. Of course, the first step in creating an effective automated system is selecting the right machines for the job.
Regardless of what industrial packaging solution you may need, we welcome you to browse through our wide range of automated packaging machines and see how we can help you achieve your goals. Then give us a call. We will gladly take the time to answer your questions, arrange a plant tour, or set up a product demonstration so you can make the right decision for your company.
Contact us today and talk with one of our experts.