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Automation in Industry: Success Through Innovation

Perhaps the most vivid quantum leap in manufacturing technology is Henry Ford’s development of the assembly line, a concept he borrowed from the industrious and demanding meat-packing industry which got the industrial automation trend rolling in December of 1903. Today, it would indeed be a difficult task to point a finger at any single industry which could not benefit immensely from the conversion to automated processes.

Granted, that by today’s automation standards, Ford’s moving assembly line is the most rudimentary of industrial concepts, but it pioneered the movement for high productivity and was the first step in today’s dominant trend of “lean manufacturing”, those modern industrial management  techniques which focus on reducing critical takt time with optimized efficiency by eliminating all possible waste (including production time) for maximum profitability.

Ford’s assembly line reduced the takt time to produce a car from more than 12 hours to just 2-1/2 hours and began the continuing trend of manufacturing technology innovations that have brought us into the advanced digital manufacturing era known today as “Industrial 4.0”. Today’s advanced automation processes allow Ford to produce 16 vehicles every 60 seconds worldwide. Below we’ll look at 5 advantages to automation which can reap similar production improvements for various industries across the board.

1. Reduced Costs

While industrial automation has evolved tremendously over the past century, the all-important bottom line is still the key motivator for an enterprise to develop fully automated processes which reduce costs. Total cost is the sum of raw material, labor, energy consumed, and waste. Add to that today’s competitive markets, incredible consumer demand and the cost of products not getting to the market in time.

Advances in 2d and 3D machine vision have led to faster pick and place machines, and vision-guided robots can tackle tedious repeatable manufacturing tasks at a continuous pace which a human counterpart simply cannot match. Complex tasks such as bead dispensing and inspectioncan be fully automated with advanced 3D vision-guided robotic techniques, and they never need a coffee break, vacation time, or sick days.

2. Improved Consistent Quality Control and Compliance

Fast inspection is the key to fast production with high quality control standards. The food and pharmaceutical industries are among the most heavily regulated industries worldwide. The cost of compliance with rigorous regulatory inspection, data archiving, traceability, and reporting to regulatory agencies such as the FDA is significant. Glass bottle, tubes, labeling and ID inspections are all processes which can be streamlined with machine vision based automation.

Proper packaging and sealing are critical in the food industry, and machine vision inspection techniques allow reliable quality control at a frame rate which would be a mere blur to the human eye. Rapidly produced continuous run products such as medical tubing require inspection of tube integrity and both inside and outside diameters, easily accomplished with machine vision at speeds up to 600 feet per minute.

3. Accurate Complex Production Capability

Complex manufacturing processes in the aerospace and automotive industries, to name just two examples, require advanced automation to detect defects before they can cause catastrophic failure further downline. Data capture technology is used to gauge critical dimensions and verify proper locations of important components such as weld nuts, springs, and fasteners with precision and inspection speeds far beyond manual inspection techniques.

4. Improved Human Safety

Vision-guided robots can take on hazardous tasks which remove human workers from the danger zone. Cutting and grinding, sawing, flash removal, and other perilous tasks can be made more hazardous when human fatigue is factored in, especially in these days of an aging workforce. Automating these tasks can prevent many of nearly 3 million non-fatal workforce injuries as reported by industries to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016.

5. Reduce  Downtime

The computers and sensing networks which make industrial automation possible also provide the means for precise machine monitoring and highly effective Predictive Maintenance (PdM) solutions.Factory managers and plant supervisors can use sensor-based data acquisition to stay ahead of problems with all types of business-critical machines and electrical equipment.

Reducing downtime due to human factors is one of the solutions our VisionVault Package provides. This user-traceability and data archiving software centralizes password control to minimize security risks to machine vision systems. Untrained personnel can be prevented from accessing operations for which they are not qualified, and a disgruntled employee cannot cause a shutdown with a malicious password change.

Industrial Automation With Machine Vision at Integro Technologies

At Integro Technologies we can provide turnkey machine vision solutions which smoothly integrate with your existing manufacturing processes. Robotics, area scan, line scan, and 2D and 3D vision technologies can provide turnkey solutions for rapid production in the 11,000 parts per minute range. When you’re ready to get your industrial operations up to speed in the age of Industrial 4.0, don’t hesitate to contact us.