Encouraged by the rewards of automation, including higher productivity, lower costs, a safer workplace, and the redistribution of staff to more strategic tasks, increasing numbers of manufacturers are taking the plunge and redefining how they operate.
We’ve collated the key tips from industry leaders who have successfully introduced automation into their CNC machining processes. So, if you’re thinking of doing the same, you can ensure a smooth transition to an automated solution.
1) Do The Research.
Automation isn’t just about making processes faster or removing human input. It can provide many other positive benefits, such as reducing scrap, reducing part setup time or providing the infrastructure for on-machine inspection.
Spending time researching the different types and benefits of manufacturing automation is your most important first step and should not be overlooked. You can then decide which goals you want to achieve first on your machine shop floor, select the correct automation tools for the job, and avoid wasting lots of time and money.
You can then go even further in your research and, for each tool you find, investigate whether that solution has a proven record of success. This will give you the confidence that it will bring the benefits you actually need for your business and really transform your CNC machining processes.
2) Make Incremental Changes.
Sometimes the key to introducing automation successfully is to do it step-by-step, rather than all at once. Taking a step-by-step approach won’t result in your existing processes becoming unrecognisable overnight. You’ll be able to learn how each ‘piece’ of automation works before introducing any more tools, and avoid getting overwhelmed. Plus, you’ll be able to measure the effects automation has at each stage of the process so you can quantify how your business has evolved after each new step.
You may also find that just the simple customisation of a few processes with automation is enough to achieve the results you want – saving both time and money.
3) Think Outside The Box and Beyond Robots.
A common misconception in the advanced manufacturing industry is that the only way to automate CNC machining processes is through the use of robots. In fact, it’s possible to automate the machining cycle end-to-end without a robot in sight.
The most innovative introduction of automation can be achieved using existing CNC machines and equipment. For example, software exists that is capable of automating the part alignment process, so instead of having to manually adjust a part to get it in the right position for alignment, the software will calculate it for you - no matter where it’s placed on the machine bed. Or, for the very start of the machining cycle, metrology tools like AutoClock, can be used in the probe setup process to automatically find the sphere position in XYZ. With no robots necessary.
These different tools are much smarter than robot automation and could actually be the solution you need for your CNC machine shop floor.
4) Plan For The Long-Term In Industrial Automation
Introducing anything new onto your shop floor could involve a considerable investment and the introduction of automation is no different. Whichever route you go down, you need to look far into the future and forsee the solution you choose lasting for the long-term. Choose a solution that is flexible and scalable so that it can adapt to your evolving business needs and processes, rather than becoming a white elephant that doesn’t move with the times.
5) Sell The Benefits
Another important way of ensuring a smooth introduction of automation is to sell the benefits to your workforce and anyone else who will be involved.
Bringing your whole team along with you on the automation journey will make them more receptive to the change and supportive of your investment, and increase your chances of a positive, successful implementation.
Be open with your workforce. Educate them to understand the types of automation tools that are being introduced, the reasons behind the decisions you’ve made, and the benefits automation will bring. By involving users at the start, they will feel part of the automation journey and you can address any of their concerns (if they have any) along the way.
You should organise training for the whole team so you can be confident the various automation tools you have invested in will be used to their full potential and maximise the benefits for your CNC machining processes.
Not only does this help the smooth transition to an automated process, it also makes it more likely that your workforce will engage proactively, and help you make the most of your investment.
At MSP, we’ve helped many advanced manufacturing companies find the automation tools that are perfect for their processes and achieve maximum benefits such as reduced scrap, reduced part setup time or 24/7, closed-door machining.
Get in touch here or on +44 (0)1665 608913.