The Role of Hardware and Software Solutions in Automation

Posted by Advanced Mobile Group on Jul 28, 2023 8:00:00 AM


Over the past several decades, industrial automation has continued to evolve. The manufacturing industry once relied solely on mechanical automation to boost efficiency. Now, a combination of hardware and software solutions is turning traditional factories into smart facilities that will be more commonplace in the future. Here’s what you need to know about the role of hardware and software solutions in automation.

Making the Case for Automation in Manufacturing

Automation has drastically transformed factories, the quality of products, the nature of supply chains, and employment. Automated systems perform a variety of functions in the manufacturing industry. But why should businesses make them a priority? Here are several reasons:

1. Increases Production Capacity

You might have the best workforce in the business, but human workers have limitations. They can only make so many widgets or fulfill so many orders during a shift. However, machines and software don’t have these limits. They can work around the clock to increase your production capacity. 

2. Addresses Labor Shortages

230404-supply-chain-management-trends-for-2023-and-beyond-1Labor shortages have plagued the manufacturing and warehousing industries over the past several years. Businesses are struggling to hire and retain skilled employees that can be productive. Companies seeking to replace those workers can turn to automation solutions for some job functions. 

3. Improves Production Quality

Having access to real-time data about your products, you can refine your production processes to improve overall quality. This data can allow you to identify inferior components or inefficient processes, so you can quickly make corrections. 

4. Reduces Overall Costs

Automation hardware and software working together allows a manufacturer to adopt leaner inventory techniques that reduce waste and overall costs. For example, the data you collect can improve inventory control and order fulfillment. 

5. Boosts Worker Safety

Manufacturing and warehousing are considered some of the most hazardous industries. There are high injury rates due to repetitive motion, heavy lifting, machinery, and other dangers. By introducing automation into the processes, this takes some of the burden off of human workers, creating a safer workplace environment. 

4 Different Types of Manufacturing Automation

Here are four different types of manufacturing automation your business can use:

1. Fixed Automation

220920-how-robots-can-increase-worker-safety-and-efficiency-in-the-supply-chainAlso known as hard automation, fixed automation is a set of tools that carry out pre-designed tasks. These are usually hardware solutions like fixed machinery or robotics that only perform a single task. 

2. Flexible Automation

Flexible automation is made to adapt to different product designs and tasks. This type of automation works well for low to medium-volume production facilities. 

3. Programmable Automation

This type of automation can perform several different functions to produce a variety of items in a short period. But it requires reprogramming for each new solution. 

4. Tech Automation

Tech automation leverages advanced tools like artificial intelligence, process intelligence, and machine learning to optimize operations and automate complex processes with both hardware and software. For example, manufacturers rely on advanced insights to predict demand and improve inventory management. 

The Role of Hardware and Software Solutions in Automation

No matter what type of automation you use, one of the above or a combination, the use of hardware and software can greatly simplify your business. Here are the different areas of manufacturing that automation solutions can impact and the roles hardware and software solutions can play. 

1. Procurement

Procuring raw materials is a vital manufacturing function. But the purchase order creation process can be incredibly time-consuming, mainly when dealing with multiple vendors. Automation has transformed the procurement process by allowing manufacturers to use software to automatically source and order the right materials as they are needed. 

This is an example of how software automation is helping manufacturers become more efficient and save costs. The data collected by these robust systems can provide intelligent insights that translate into better products and lower prices for consumers. 

2. Production

Complex-Order-Fulfillment-Simplified-with-Voice-Collection-3Using hardware and software automation together, manufacturers can automate repetitive tasks and streamline production to produce amazing results. These solutions, like RFID tags, voice solutions, robotics, and conveyor systems, carry out repetitive, dangerous, and difficult tasks and increase overall production efficiency. 

These tools can run at higher speeds and more efficiently than human workers, so you boost production and even get new products to market faster. They also offer great precision, which reduces waste and produces a higher-quality product. 

3. Quality Assurance

Automation tools give manufacturers the power to streamline the testing and inspection of products to improve the quality assurance process. Tools like artificial intelligence, image analysis, and machine learning can quickly spot defects in products without the need for a manual inspection of every item. These automated early detection programs can reduce costs in the form of damaged items, recalls, and lost customer trust. 

4. Operations

Automation solutions help manufacturers to boost operational efficiency by providing real-time visibility throughout the production process. Using tools like RFID tags combined with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) or manufacturing execution system (MES), a business can view real-time data about things like inventory levels, production bottlenecks, supply chain activities, and other key performance metrics. This information can help identify both challenges and opportunities. 

5. Supply Chain

Automation within the supply chain can boost the efficiency of your overall operations. For example, RFID tags give manufacturers, transporters, and warehouses real-time data about product locations, improving order accuracy, increasing processing speed, and reducing shipping errors. These solutions also integrate with hardware solutions like automated guided vehicles (AVGs) and collaborative robots for more efficient inventory storage and order fulfillment. 

Few industries remain untouched by technology. While manufacturing is considered one of the more traditional sectors, it also has a long history of innovation dating back to the industrial revolution. Manufacturers continue to embrace both hardware and software solutions to achieve more productive, cost-efficient, and safer workplaces that also improve the entire supply chain experience.

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Topics: RFID, Warehouse Managment, Inventory Managment, Voice Technology, Technology Trends, Automation, Soft Robotics

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