The Process of Integrating Robotics and Automation Into Your Manufacturing
Picture this, your industry is expanding, and you just landed several new contracts, but you’re having trouble even keeping up with current levels of production. Now whether this is because you can’t find operators to fill open positions, inefficient processes, or slowed productivity due to new employee training, you’re now looking at automating some of your manufacturing processes, but where do you start? Pioneer Industrial Systems is here to help! The first step is understanding the process of integrating robotics and automation onto your factory floor and to build your plan around this. At Pioneer we believe that projects we take on have a much higher chance of being successful when we are transparent with our customers, educate them on the process, and set realistic expectations from the start. That is exactly what we are going to accomplish in this article.
So, you may be asking yourself if automation is a good fit for your company. There are many valid concerns when it comes to integrating automation into your existing manufacturing processes.
Things such as:
Cost – The cost of these systems varies widely depending on our customer’s needs
Effectiveness – Some manufacturing processes are great to automate while others are best done manually
Use the 3Ds of automation to help determine this:
– Dangerous – Robots and automation are excellent options to perform dangerous jobs in manufacturing processes. Not only does this remove human employees from dangerous situations day in and day out, but it also brings down insurance costs for employers as well while not having to worry about worker’s compensation.
– Dirty – Many robot manufacturers have models for purchase that can be pressure washed and are resistant to heat, dirt, paint, and other chemicals. Throughout the manufacturing industry, there are many jobs and processes that require the employee to be in those dirty situations, whether it be where they may get wet, dirty, or exposed to chemicals in the air.
– Disengaging – When most people think of manufacturing, they think of people standing next to conveyors on assembly lines doing the same job or inspecting the same product over and over all day long. Although manufacturing has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades, there are times and processes that still require monotonous jobs. This can lead to employees feeling undervalued, unfulfilled, and becoming bored on the job. Automation can help avoid this and open up other opportunities for those same employees to fill more rewarding positions.
Timeline – The time required to integrate automation into our customer’s manufacturing varies greatly depending on each project with the average time being 12 months from the start of the engineering phase to factory floor installation
Then there’s the stigma that adding automation into your manufacturing will eliminate jobs. Many of these jobs are undesirable and you know all too well that many people do not and will not work in these positions, making them increasingly harder to fill year after year. Furthermore, integrating automation in your factory creates jobs as you need workers who can understand and maintain the equipment.
The reality is that with the current labor shortage, manufacturers’ inability to keep up with demand, and the competitive market, many companies may not have a choice but to install automation into their facilities. The bright side is, that if done correctly, automation can decrease overhead, increase productivity, and eliminate time and resources spent on hiring with the return far outweighing the initial upfront investment.
At Pioneer Industrial Systems we have over 20 years of experience designing, building, and installing custom automation into our customer’s manufacturing. Our team has solved a wide range of manufacturing challenges, across multiple industries. This has helped us refine an extensive set of capabilities, allowing us to serve even more customers. We build upon each successful project, applying proven ideas to new industries in unique ways.
Our capabilities include, but are not limited to:
Paint, Dispense, Spray
Integrating Automation Into Your Manufacturing
Integrating custom automation into your factory takes time, planning, and capital, but despite the initial investment it pays off rather quickly. The reason for this is that many of the systems we build are custom to each of our customer’s manufacturing needs, floor space, and specifications. This means that the system we design, build, and install will work effectively within your existing manufacturing, becoming an asset for years to come.
Sales and Quoting
Okay, so you’ve done the research and you’re ready to start the process of integrating automation into your manufacturing and you reach out to our team with the initial concept. You’ll be greeted by one of our automation experts who will have a conversation with you to figure out the process you want automated, your timeline, and your budget. After this first contact, we will assign one of our salesmen to your job based on your needs. Our salesman will then reach out to you to really delve deep into the particulars of the system you need. After they feel they have a good understanding of the project, the salesman will then meet with one of our quoting engineers and give them all the specifics to get a rough quote put together. Once this quote is finished, our salesman will present it to your team for review. At that time, we can work with you on any recommended changes or additions. After those details are worked out a final quote will be presented to you, and if your team accepts, the next step would be for you to issue us a purchase order.
The amount of time from when you first contact us to a purchase order being signed depends on how long it takes for us to get the right quote that fits your specific needs and budget with the average sales process taking anywhere from 6-12 months.
During the project kickoff phase, our team meets to hand off all the essential information from our sales team to our engineers who then design the system. This includes the scope of the project, all the specifications, and your team’s contact information. This phase is where the project really transitions from idea to reality. Once a purchase order is signed the project moves into the design and build phase with the typical system taking around 12 months from design to project completion.
Engineering and Design
In the engineering and design phase, we dive deep into all the details/components of the system. The first step is to assign a team to your project. Once a team is assigned, we will schedule a project kickoff meeting between our team and your team.
Our engineers will take the preliminary concept and create a working 3D model, sequence of operation, cycle time chart, safety review, and a preliminary list of electrical components.
Then our team will schedule a meeting with your team to review and approve the design. Once the design is approved our electrical and mechanical engineers will start working on drawings and schematics to create a fully functioning machine while our programmers work on the program for the machine to operate. This takes us to the build phase.
Fabrication and Assembly
During the build phase, our team will purchase all materials needed, assemble, and program the entire system in our shop, making sure that the machine that gets shipped and installed into your facility needs minimal tweaking before it is ready for production.
This process starts with our purchasing agent purchasing all the materials needed to build your system based on the engineer’s blueprints.
Next, once we receive the steel needed, our skilled fabricators go to work building the frame of the machine. You can think of this as the foundation of the system and we’re very proud to have some of the best fabricators around. Once the frame has been fully fabricated, it’s shipped out to a local company to get powder-coated. A fresh coat of paint not only looks good but also helps with the longevity of our systems preventing rust and protecting the freshly fabricated frame.
Once the frame is back from getting powder-coated our expert machine builders start assembling different components onto the frame. This step is where the system really starts to come together, and the different components may include:
While our machine builders were assembling the machine, our industrial electricians were busy building the electrical panel for the system. The electrical panel is the brain of our automation systems and may include:
Once the entire electrical panel has been assembled it is then attached to the system, where our electricians will then run what are called “field cables” to connect the panel to the rest of the electrical components including HMIs, vision systems/sensors, motors, safety switches, emergency stops, etc.
Programming and Debugging
After all components of the machine have been added, the programming and debugging begins. Our experienced programmers have already done much of the programming to the PLC while waiting on the system to be fully assembled and now they must go through and troubleshoot their program on the live machine to make sure it runs smoothly. This includes finding errors in the wiring, tweaking vision systems, and adjusting the initial program.
After the entire system has been assembled, debugged, and is running smoothly, we enter the runoff phase. During this step, the customer comes to our facility and watches the machine run several production cycles. If everything goes well, our customer will then buy off the equipment and approve the system to ship. After we get the go-ahead, our team goes to work disassembling the machine and getting it ready to ship.
Shipping, Installation, and Startup
We will then work with your team to coordinate all the shipping and installation details. Once the system is shipped out of our shop and arrives at your facility our team is quick to follow to install the system onto your shop floor.
Our installers will communicate with your team to make sure that we are following all safety guidelines within your facility and that we have all the support we need to make the installation go as smoothly as possible. After the installation is complete our programmer will arrive to assist in getting the equipment up and running in production as well as perform any training or required acceptance testing on your floor. Once the startup is complete and the machine is running smoothly on your factory floor we enter the last part of our process, the project closure and review phase.
Project Closure and Review
The project closure and review phase is where we have our final meeting with your team to make sure that you are satisfied with the system and to discuss any final concerns you might have. This step is really important to our team as we want to make sure that each of our customers has a great experience working with us and that there aren’t any concerns that go unaddressed. Furthermore, our team has a lessons learned meeting internally so we are constantly learning as we gain more experience to make our next project run even more smoothly from the beginning. This way our team continually improves, increasing our breadth of knowledge allowing us to better serve our customers. This last step may be a small part of the entire process, but it is one of the most important.
We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of the process of integrating automation into your manufacturing and you now have the knowledge to move forward and create a plan.
If you’re serious about improving your manufacturing with automation fill out the form below today and one of our automation experts will reach out to you shortly.