Painless Steps toward Automation
By Jeff Melville
National Sales Director
Man vs. Machine. It’s a story that has been engrained, at least in my mind, since the release of the original Terminator movie. In a way, that has become a reality, but it has allowed for the human aspect to be placed into roles that allow for better use of their intelligence.
What may be the kicker in the decision to shift automation efforts into high gear is the dire labor shortage in the United States. The optimistic stories seen on the news do not match with what I hear from our manufacturing customers daily, and I speak to a lot of them. They’ve become willing to hire anyone with a heartbeat, but still cannot fill positions. I’m never surprised when I hear that our customers can’t even get scheduled interviewees to show up for the interview, let alone be hired.
In fact, a recent study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute estimates that 53 out of 100 vacant jobs will remain open by 2028. This has all led for the need to step into the realm of automation just to have a business survive. Although it seems intimidating to dip your toes into the water of this “not-so- new” way of manufacturing, playing the long-term bet and implementing small changes where you can, can show a relatively quick ROI. A determination of cost of manual-only labor vs Mini-Mover Conveyors in a chart form can visually bring the pros and cons both a manual and more automated approach.
Costs of Human Labor:
- Operator wages
- Workers compensation insurance
- Safety equipment and training
- Job training
- Payroll tax, benefits, other costs (per worker)
- Product loss due to human error and pace of work.
- Ergonomic risks
Costs of Automation Processes
- Up front capital investment
- Special operator training
- Stoppages due to parts or program replacement
|Work Station – Unloading Function||Manual Method||With Mini-Mover Conveyor|
|Year 1||Capital Investment||$0||$10,000
(No special training needed)
|Monthly Throughput||4,000 pcs||12,000 pcs|
|Wages & Related Costs||$64,500/operator||$64,500/operator|
|Annual Throughput||48,000 pcs.||144,000 pcs.|
|Year 2||Capital Investment||$0||$0|
|Monthly Throughput||12,000 pcs.||12,000 pcs.|
|Wages & Related Costs||$64,500/ operator||$64,500/operator|
|Annual Throughput||144,000 pcs.||144,000 pcs.|
A full automation setup does not make sense for every business. But even adding just a few conveyors and rotary table to existing machines can help cut wasted time and effort by operators. Maintaining high quality standards, while keeping costs under control, is what makes automation a proven solution.