Custom Automation – Top 10 Things To Know
Through the years we’ve seen custom automation companies come and go, and here are some of the things that we have learned as an industry leader.
Anybody looking for custom automation should know the following 10 things.
But if you don’t, that’s okay; we’ll guide you through it.
1. Custom automation can be a practical alternative to overseas labor.
Custom automation of processes can decrease production-related labor costs by combining multiple steps into one compact machine, making it cost effective to remain at home.
2. It costs twice as much and takes twice as long as you think…but pays huge dividends.
When planning custom automation for your processes, the inclination is to look at the big components like robots or electrical control systems, add up their costs, and then factor in some engineering hours.
But with that approach, what is forgotten are important items that provide safety and smooth transitions throughout the system. Items such as light curtains, safety guarding, brackets, pneumatic valves, hoses, cables or rails to move the robot back and forth, and items that are required to make all the components work together are easy to forget when first thinking about custom automation.
Lead times on robots can be 16-18 weeks, and lead times on most other major items average around 8 weeks. With the lead-time on components being so long, a custom automation project can take twice as long as you are anticipating it will.
3. Cheap and fast, or good and reliable: which one do you want?
If you ask for a Mercedes but only put up funds for a Rambler, chances are what you end up with will soon break and rust away in a corner.
If you want a fast custom automation solution, you’ll end up rushing through design and assembly, thereby risking your chances of excluding critical measures, such as for safety or quality.
The good and reliable solution is like getting the Mercedes at the proper cost and in a timeframe that adequately allows for good design and a solid build.
Now the good news is that we are the fastest in the industry. We wrote the book on project management so we are best positioned to finish projects on time and under budget. But we aren’t cutting corners, we just follow the best processes to move your project along swiftly.
4. Custom automation technologies are constantly changing.
Just because you bought something 5 years ago and it works well, it doesn’t mean that it’s still the best technology on the market.
Think about how many updates and upgrades there are with the typical computer; there is always some upgrade or new version that makes it function better. The same holds true for custom automation systems. Products are improving and new technologies are constantly emerging.
5. It can be difficult for companies inexperienced in custom automation to articulate and visualize what they need.
If you can’t articulate what you want, you don’t need it.
For companies just starting down the custom automation path, there are a number of processes and capabilities that they do know, but hundreds more that they don’t.
A good custom automation company can help suggest better options to make your process run smoothly.
6. Custom automation reveals flaws.
Many times, people are unaware of how much inconsistency there is in their processes and in the quality of their parts until we start looking at the custom automation with them.
Inconsistency and automation don’t get along!
For this reason, processes, tolerances, dimensions, accuracy and so on must be tightened up across the board.
If not, the automated process won’t work and you will hate the machine.
7. Some things just can’t be automated.
You might think any part you can build with a hammer and an anvil can be made with custom automation.
Although we would love to automate every process, sometimes the cost of the machine versus the payback makes it unwise.
8. Your custom automation vendor will be out of business in 2 years.
We wish it weren’t so, but those are your chances and here’s why:
Most custom automation companies are small businesses that design machines one at a time. When they finish a design, they pass on all the intellectual property to the customer along with the machine.
Not a problem, until you consider the financials.
When purchasing custom automation machines, 60-65% of the price is for materials needed to build the machine. If the machine is not paid for until the end of the project, your small custom automation vendor ends up paying for the machine and the design of it until it is complete. This leaves them cash-strapped until the very end of the project, unable to take on new work, limited in developing current staff or hiring people with new additional expertise, and so on.
This practice, along with a propensity to overload their risk by saying “Yes, we can do that…” to projects well beyond their specialty and experience, often puts these companies out of business.
Be prepared to put money down on a custom automation project.
Setpoint was founded on a culture of principled project management and has thrived and helped our clients thrive during 25 years of custom automation work. Now we’re the fastest in the industry and best-suited to deliver your project under budget.
9. You still need labor.
Automating processes does reduce your labor force, but does not eliminate it.
Custom automation with lean principles most often still results in needing someone who can run the machines, monitor the line, and stop production in case of errors and parts being processed incorrectly.
10. A full custom automation effort will require maintenance and spare parts to sustain reliability and a high uptime.
All machines need to have routine preventative maintenance performed on them.
It’s inevitable that machine parts will wear out, and therefore spare parts need to be maintained and ready for quick replacement to keep your lines up and running.
Also, sensors and vision systems on occasion need to be adjusted, tightened back into place and recalibrated to maintain the reliability of the machine.
And just one more…
11. Automation will never call in sick, show up late, or create a sexual harassment lawsuit for your company…
This one just speaks for itself.