Shortcut you need to know before moving to automation
Today the automation system is seen as a shortcut for all manufacturers. It has evolved from labor use to efficient automated manufacturing. With automation, the company can increase production to meet market demand, and empower the employee capability whilst controlling its expenses and production costs in accordance with the company’s long-term goals. Before taking the shortcut and running the “automation” system, Premiere Tech invites you to hear insights from the industry expert who will share his direct experience with the system.
Turn “Problems” into “Performance” with “Automation”
Having over 35 years of experience as a Factory Manager at Thai Roong Ruang – Petchaboon Plant and an Advisor to BaanRai Sugar Industry, Mr. Supat Limsiri supervised the factory’s entire sugar production process. He shared with us the main reason for deciding to switch from a manual to an automated system: He tried to turn “problems” into “performance”, using “automation” to create “efficiency”. Supplying white sugar to both domestic and international customers, the factory faced critical issues when customers rejected its products due to the sugar’s caking condition. The factory was fined, and sentenced to investment loss covering the damaged products. Investigators found that new equipment to minimise moisture of the sugar has to be installed thus manual bagging line has to be relocated. Moreover, the factory regularly operated with absent or late staff. This led the company to seriously explore the possibility of automation integration into the current production line, which would decrease the likelihood of product contamination. To solve the sugar’s caking issue, additional preventive equipment was installed in the sugar’s filling line.
8 points to prepare before switching from manual to automation
- Have a vision aligning with a long-term plan
- Explore long-term investment, ROI and learning curve
- Find your capable operation team – Human Resources
- Be ready to adjust the process to align with the new system
- Have a maintenance plan
- Develop the knowledge and skills of your team
- Adjust the team structure and create value in other fields of work
- Communicate and create a mutual understanding within the organization
2 key points to consider when making the move
Businesses need to focus on two out of the eight points when bringing its current system into the automation world. The first point is the development of knowledge and skills of the assigned team. This requires a well-established cooperative relationship between the manufacturers and machine suppliers from the beginning of the installation. This collaboration will lead to a properly designed system that maximizes as well as a thorough plan of essential training for both machine operation and maintenance.
The important point is proper machine maintenance. Below are steps that lead to an aptly maintained machine:
- Have a fixed schedule of a regular and preventive maintenance
- Provide adequate training and knowledge to all operational staff
- Do not try to access machine software without proper training, or without a trained supervisor present
- Do not use non-genuine or OEM spare parts, as they will affect long-term efficiency of the machine.
Regular maintenance and preventive maintenance will enable the machine to perform well, and stave off unnecessary and costly repairs in the future.
Rewards for the new milestone
After switching the production to automation, Mr. Supat shares with Premier Tech about the impressive outcomes from this change in terms of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), Return on Investment (ROI), production efficiency and safety. The automation system enables the factory to produce continuously and maximize the production capacity.
“For our 300-day production, in the past we used 17 staff per shift to operate this line. After changing to the automation system, we use only 3 staff per shift. The production costs are significantly reduced, despite the increased investment in packaging. In total we save over 3 million baht a year and the return time is only 3-4 years,” he noted.
Mr. Supat highlights other positive results of the system change: a significant decrease in staff accidents due to the increased safety measures that accompany the automation system. The company has been planning carefully when introducing to the new system, allowing supervisors to consider adjusting their team structure, move some to other areas. This is one of checklists to prepare the organization when entering the automation world.
The right partner
“We need someone experienced to help us consistently improve. Tell us our weak spots, our strengths, and what is right for our business.” Mr. Supat insisted to Premier Tech. It is obvious that choosing the right partner or supplier is a key success factor of any business who is in transition to automation. A business partner who puts the success of their customer at the heart of everything they do, while a good partner also needs to have some elements as follows:
- Have a total solution and global presence with installation base and after-sales service team in the country or region, especially that can speak local languages
- Have experience in both manual and automation systems. This knowledge will help them to understand and collaborate with the customer organization on how to move towards automation, and support upcoming changes
- Be reliable, have reference cases globally in the industry
- Be a brand you can trust with a good track record.
If you choose the “right” partner, the tangible and clear results will be obvious. Main indicators of success include, increased productivity, and decreased costs and expenses. The financial and accounting benefits such as ROI are measurable. The problems that have arisen from manual systems should be reduced in the short and long term, especially the safety and market standards e.g. hygiene. The indirect benefit from production-related systems can be improved cost-effectiveness and space utilization. Moreover, this partnership should lead to increased productivity and knowledge of staff in the organization. At the end, the company has leveraged its competitiveness.
Working side by side with Mr. Supat for years, Premier Tech confirms that these benefits will come only from the “right” partner who can help you think and look how to move forward successfully to “automation” system together.