Automation Issues


Automation poses several issues. The major area requiring decisions are

(a) High tech, mid tech, or low tech production.
(b) Building manufacturing flexibility
(c) Justifying automation projects
(d) Deciding among alternatives
(e) Managing technological change.

High-tech, Mid-tech or Low-tech Production

(a) One of the issues to be resolved relates to high-tech, mid-tech, or low-tech production. There are factories using very old technology but doing well. There are others latest technology but performing poorly. This does not mean that production technology has no impact on a company’s profitability. The following conclusions are relevant in this context:

Ø Automation, however advanced it may be, cannot be substitute for good management.
Ø It is not technically feasible to automate some operations. For example, in garment industry cutting, assembling and sewing are not yet automated.
Ø Some automation projects may prone to be failure. Companies which embark on automation may poorly manage the implementation of the automated machinery. Consequently, they prove to be worse off than that were before automation.

It may be concluded that all companies must keep production processes updated as production technology advances. If not able to keep abreast with the technology advances means that the future of the companies would be uncertain in profitability because their competitors will seize the strategic advantage offered by switching to advanced technology.

Building Manufacturing Flexibility

Manufacturing flexibility refers to all types of equipment and production systems that provide the ability to respond to changing market needs. Manufacturing flexibility is advantageous as it enables quick execution of customer orders. This enables production capacity to be developed and introduced into production quickly and inexpensively in response to shifting market needs

The following machines of production systems make the manufacturing system flexible:

(a) Numerically Controlled Machines
(b) Programmable and reprogrammable robots.
(c) Automation quality control inspection.
(d) Automation identification system (AIS)
(e) Automated process controls
(f) Automatic assembly systems.
(g) Flexible manufacturing systems (FMS)
(h) Automatic storage and retrieval systems (ASRS)
(i) CAD / CAM- Computer aided Design / Machining.
(j) Computer integrated manufacturing (CIM).

Before considering introduction of any auto systems and introduction of above mentioned processes a feasibility study is required to be done keeping in mind the Sales vs Production volumes generated by the automation. These machines and production systems represent the core of manufacturing flexibility. They involve huge investments. Such huge investment is worth because the machines and systems help achieve low unit cost and high profitability subject to feasibility.