In this second part in our Why Automate? Series, we take a look at how automation can optimize speed and productivity. We’ll also share some research on the connection between robots and labor productivity.
In the first blog in our Why Automate? Series, we focused on the improved product quality and consistency of throughput that you get when upgrading from manual processes to flexible automation or semi-automated processes. Now we’re going to focus on the optimization you can expect to see in productivity and speed.
First of all, industrial robots make it possible to produce products faster because of shorter part cycle times compared to human labor or fixed or hard automation. A robot can oftentimes perform tasks in a fraction of the time it takes their human counterparts, and they never tire, slow down or make mistakes. They repeatedly complete their tasks accurately in the same amount of time, which means your cycle times will also be more consistent.
This will make it easier for you to plan and accurately predict overall throughput. It will also be easier to produce small batches when needed. Using quick change tooling and modular programming techniques, a flexible automation system can be quickly changed and adapted to process a family of parts.
Industrial robots also allow production lines to continue operation at a lower cost for longer periods of time. Some factories and plants even run them 24/7. That’s because robots do not have to take breaks, rest or go home after an 8-hour shift. They only have to be shut down occasionally for routine maintenance. They can also be built and programmed to perform multiple tasks, which adds value without additional human labor costs.
While your automated or semi-automated lines will still require human oversight, your production and productivity will be much less impacted by fluctuations in labor force, which result when employees resign, retire, are sick, or on leave or vacation. Your robots will always be at work when you need them – adding value to the product with each touch.
Research Also Shows Link Between Robotics & Labor Productivity
A recent study from the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London concluded that the use of manufacturing robots raised the annual growth of labor productivity, and even worker wages, and did not significantly impact total hours worked. The study analyzed new data from the International Federation of Robotics from 1993 to 2007 across 14 industries in 17 countries, including the U.S.
The study’s researchers, George Graetz and Guy Michaels, found that the use of robots in manufacturing raised the annual growth of labor productivity and GDP by 0.36 and 0.37 percentage points, respectively, from 1993 to 2007. This amounts to approximately 10% of the total GDP growth in the 17 countries studied, and 16% of labor productivity growth over those same years.
In an article about the same study in the Harvard Business Review, it was reported that robots have already had a larger impact (0.36%) on labor productivity from 1993 to 2007 than the steam engine did (0.34%) from 1850 to 1910.
A white paper published recently by the Association for Advancing Automation also showed that, since 2010, the robotics industry has not only grown substantially in the U.S, but the use of robots parallels and seems to support the rise in employment. In fact, robots are credited with causing many U.S. manufacturers to rethink moving their factories offshore, according to the white paper titled “Robots Fuel the Next Wave of U.S. Productivity and Job Growth.”
To learn more about how MESH can design, build and program a custom, automated solution to increase productivity and speed in your plant, give us a call today.