Having an automated workforce has always been the ultimate goal for manufacturing businesses. The difficulty in achieving a fully automatic factory is tied to capital costs and the level of intelligence of the machinery. Advancements in AI have made the tech not only a possibility but more accessible even to small businesses.
Robots are now used in critical production processes like assembly, quality assurance, packaging, and distribution. They have also been deployed in bottleneck data entry tasks like managing operational and backend operations. Manufacturers who use robots have benefited from competitiveness, more efficient work, and cost reductions.
Overall Faster Production and Delivery
Robots can automate data capturing, manufacturing, and delivery of goods if given the latitude. Having a production process that relies on robots ensures a consistent level of output at every stage of the production process. Having efficient robots present at every step performing at their peak will quickly eliminate bottlenecks in the production process.
Tarsus Distribution from South Africa had a bottleneck problem. The manual entry of invoices was holding their distribution process back. Using advanced RPA solutions, they were able to eliminate the inefficiency. They reduced the processing time from 4 hours to just 3 minutes.
Unparalleled Opportunities for Scaling
One of the hardest things to achieve with scaling is consistency. If the first hundred employees hit a high productivity and production rate, there is no guarantee that the next 100 employees will achieve the same. This is because humans are not the same.
Machines do not have that inconsistency in them; what one device can do the next can do at the same level. This eliminates uncertainty when planning on production increases. All variables are known and certain with robots. Each year robots are becoming smaller, cheaper, and more efficient, so scaling up requires less and fewer investments.
Eliminating Human Errors
Robots can process data and carry out tasks faster than humans can. They are also less prone to making mistakes. Robots consistently perform at a given level without fatigue, boredom, or distraction.
If confronted with an unknown variable, a robot will immediately send a notice to an operator to solve it. With AI, the robot will learn from how the operator solved the issue. Robots additionally reduce wastage. The rules-based systems and the level of accuracy in them ensure that every resource is used to its full potential.
Robots do not need to sleep, eat, or take breaks. They can run all day with little or no supervision. Since robots use sensors and precision movements, they don’t actually need lights to operate. This has given rise to “lights out” operations, factories that have robots working in the dark at night.
Much like humans, over time, robots will need to be replaced due to wear and tear. Before they break down, they are more likely to become outdated or need to be replaced by newer, more efficient robots. Whatever the reason, a new machine will need to replace or augment an older device. Considering that all robots are blank slates, this presents an issue of onboarding a new robot that has no knowledge or information on its task.
Data migration is the transfer of information from one machine to the next. This is how a newer robot can immediately “learn” from an older device. With human workers, the transference of skills takes months or even years. With robots, the transfer is immediate.
Automated Manufacturing is the Future
Robots will continue to bring cost savings and efficiencies to the manufacturing process. As robot functionality and agility increases, they will become more pervasive in an increasing number of industries. A report by Allied Market Research stated that the global factory automation market was $203.98 billion in 2018 and is estimated to grow to $368.37 billion by 2025.