All businesses face challenges—some unique to their industries, some shared by other sectors. In both cases, automation offers solutions. Let’s review how automation can help companies overcome some of these common challenges. Be sure to visit the article links to learn even more.
Challenge: Meeting rising demand
From shifts in consumer behavior to external events that impact markets worldwide, all kinds of things can spur a jump in demand. Whatever the cause, that rise can put a strain on any business.
Consider the food and beverage industry. In 2020, demand for flour skyrocketed as thousands of hobbyists began baking their own bread. U.S. suppliers were accustomed to predictable patterns of demand for both all-purpose and specialty flours. Suddenly, they needed to deliver a lot more of both.
Then there’s packaging. Customers have increasingly turned to eCommerce for everything from niche goods to everyday supplies. That’s a lot more stuff that needs to be packaged and shipped—and some companies aren’t equipped to work on that scale.
Automation can assist businesses with spikes like this, no matter the cause. Artificial intelligence can forecast and account for changes in demand. Automated milling equipment helps employees process wheat into flour more quickly. And sensitive machine vision speeds up the process of picking, sorting and packaging products.
For more details about how automation helps address spikes in demand, check out this article.
Challenge: Optimize production
Labor shortages happen (many industries are facing them right now). Demand fluctuations throw off production schedules. Sometimes, equipment simply isn’t used as efficiently as it could be. For these reasons and more, some companies don’t get as much as they can out of their equipment and personnel. And if businesses don’t optimize their operations, they’re missing out on value. Automation can help.
For example, an automated piece of equipment can alert operators when one of its components is about to wear out. Producers can get every last bit of use out of it and plan downtime to replace it—no wasted resources, no wasted time. CNC interfaces are another good example. Labor shortages hit machining operations particularly hard, but a CNC interface streamlines the machining process, so one human operator can get far more done each day. Automation gives every industry opportunities to create efficiency, strengthen workforces and optimize production.
For a deeper look into how automation can address labor shortages specifically, read this article.
Challenge: Data maturity
These days, smart equipment is more common than ever. Industries like agriculture and healthcare have a wealth of information about their operations that they couldn’t have dreamed of ten years ago.
But taking advantage of that data can be challenging. Operations reach “data maturity” when they go past simply gathering information to actually using it strategically. Getting there can be tough—which is where automation comes in.
Consider agriculture. AI helps farmers use info from soil moisture sensors, local weather records, and other sources to generate smart irrigation plans for their automated pivots. When it comes to healthcare, look at how AI analyzes large amounts of data—around 10,000 medical charts per hour—to quickly find patients eligible for clinical cancer studies.
Get into the details of data maturity in this article.
Challenge: Creating cost efficiencies
Getting the most out of every dollar spent has always been crucial, no matter the industry. The higher demand goes, the faster businesses are expected to deliver—and the more inefficiencies are exposed.
Fortunately, automation makes it easier to keep up. The latest developments in machine vision and motion control make high-speed delicate operations possible—from butchering meat to picking and placing products for shipment. Quality control has grown more efficient as well. Think back to those flour companies. Advanced cameras and AI can check their products for impurities and ensure consistent particle size.
In addition, mobile robots can perform a variety of roles more quickly and safely than their human counterparts. An automated forklift can save a company hundreds of hours of training and prevent tens of thousands of injuries per year—which gives people more time to get other work done.
The initial investment required for some of this technology can be high, but the returns are immediate and substantial.
Learn more about how automation can lower costs in this article.
Challenge: Accelerate time to market
Little inefficiencies can drag down otherwise flawless operations. You can make the best products in the business, but inferior products might outsell you if they get to market first.
Consider the life sciences industry. Delicate tasks like checking liquid levels on hundreds of vials or cataloging and sorting biological samples are crucial to drug development. But they’re also dull and time-consuming. Every minute scientists spend on these tasks is one that could have been spent doing critical research.
Vision solutions help here. Cameras are now sensitive enough to count the granules in a single medicine capsule, spot one underfilled vial out of a thousand, or construct 3D profiles of objects for sorting—all at high speed. Scientists can rely on them to swiftly handle the grunt work while they focus on tasks that truly need human attention. Work goes more quickly and patients get healthier sooner.
Vision technology can improve experiences for customers directly, too. Learn how in this article.
Products and services keep evolving to meet the needs of the modern market—and so do automated solutions. By attending Automate, you’ll see how these technologies are not in the distant future. They’re right here, right now. Register free today and join us in Chicago, IL, USA, May 6–9, 2024.
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