Automation is not about giving machines more power and capabilities to fund Skynet (from Terminator), rather it's about giving man more time to innovate by taking over tasks that would otherwise be too time consuming. However, that doesn’t mean that people are no longer needed. It is very typical for people to associate the word ‘automation’ with layoffs because they feel that they would no longer be needed. On the contrary, it means that those people would no longer have to spend long periods of time doing menial tasks and can instead focus on tackling other challenges that would help their company grow. You could say that the need to automate is a good problem to have.
“The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.” --B.F. Skinner
Earlier this year, we traveled to Neotech Products LLC. in Valencia, CA to see what we could do to improve their manufacturing process. As a rapidly growing company they needed to automate some of their processes so that they could keep up with the growing demand for their products. One of the easiest, most effective improvements on the shop floor is the use of conveyor belts.
Conveyor belts eliminate the need for physical strain. They quickly move product from point A to point B at high rates, and most importantly they reduce the operator time lost due to walking from one end of the factory floor to the other. Sure, walking product from one station to another and back might only be a few minutes or so an hour, but multiply that by a several product lines over a year and you are quickly at a several hundred hours of walking. With a company currently experiencing such rapid growth, those hours could easily be spent doing much more productive activities.
That quick time analysis was all needed, it was decided, we would install a new conveyor at Neotech’s facility. It can’t be that hard, right? The hardest part of the entire process was definitely opening the box! Once inventory was taken, it took less than a day to install the 43-foot conveyor tying together several manufacturing rooms into a single, final packaging and printing area.
Shortly after installing the conveyor, Neotech had us design and build equipment to aid in the fixturing of an inline VideoJet Printer, eliminating manual labeling of thousands of boxes a day.
All combined their investment is due to pay for itself in just a few short months. And the staff at Neotech is now learning new technology as part of their training.
Needless to say, Neotech was very pleased with their new conveyor! This one new automation tool/device will save hundreds of hours a year and enable Neotech employees to be more productive and creative!