Investing In Production Automation: Everything You Need To Know

31 Oct 2019

The benefits of improving your production line with automation are far greater than just ROI. There are many aspects that make this decision difficult; logistics, staff training and downtime to name a few.

Nevertheless, businesses in industries such as chemicals and food are turning to production automation for reasons such as access to new markets, updating technology and reducing labour stress on employees.

In this article, we’ll look at why the global markets are choosing automation, how this affects our domestic manufacturing and the options you have available on the market to improve your business. Alternatively, you can call us on 9873 7677 for anything weighing and bagging.

Automations are changing the global manufacturing landscape

Robotics and automated processes are changing the way production lines operate. Most companies would choose to automate parts of the business to increase output despite not doing so. What’s interesting is how SME businesses are adapting to this new landscape.

Access to automation from smaller companies has grown in recent years due to the competitive nature of the market. More and more businesses around the world are offering new technologies at cheaper prices while still maintaining excellent quality.

Let’s take our weighing and bagging automation for instance. We’re based in Australia but we’re currently competing against global multi-national companies from Europe and the United States. Companies in South Africa and Asia are looking to Active Weighing Solutions for automation.

This competitive global supply chain for manufacturing businesses means that more SMEs around the world, especially in Australia, can now access semi-automated and automated machines to improve their production lines.

How the Australian food industry uses manufacturing automations

Three domestic industries have led the way when it comes to using semi-automatic and automatic machines in their production lines; chemicals, pharmaceuticals and food. The last of which is one of the globes, and Australia’s, fastest-growing industries.

Food is a vague and often undefined industry. However, in this article, we’ll be focusing on primary and secondary food production. These two industries have championed the use of automation for a number of reasons.

Four key aspects have urged businesses in food to adapt to production line automation:

  • The rapid growth of the food and beverage industry
  • Busier lifestyles that call for processed and packaged food consumption
  • Increased disposable income across many economies around the world
  • Decreases in upfront and maintenance costs

As demand for food increases, businesses of all sizes in the industry must meet higher unit volumes as well as changing consumer demands. This, in turn, has meant a noticeable trend with businesses incorporating automated machines with existing manual and semi-automated systems.

While this briefcase study is fantastic for those within the food, what does it mean for other Australian businesses and industries that aren’t experiencing major growth? There are several pain points to consider here when looking to the future.

What’s stopping Australians from choosing automations?

A complete overhaul of operations is something that many SMEs cannot afford in Australia. This hesitation, high installation and maintenance costs, is the biggest obstacle for those wanting automations but cannot reasonably justify the cost.

The gradual progression from manual to semi-automatic or semi-automatic to automatic is a key trend for many businesses in Australia looking to improve their efficiency and increase their business growth. However, installation, maintenance and skilled labour remain difficult hurdles for many Australian businesses.

Installation and maintenance remain strong barriers for rural and even metropolitan businesses as specialised parts and equipment can be difficult to source and transport due to their niche suppliers in international markets.

Another aspect that has stunted growth and demand is the inability to source skilled labour to operate, repair and maintain the specialised equipment. This is incredibly difficult for rural businesses in primary food processing that maintain proximity to the food source.

One of the most difficult challenges facing manufacturers will be when to think about upgrading their existing systems. Do I choose a complete overhaul or only partially upgrade processes? Is it worth the cost?

The untold benefits of reducing manual processes

The ergonomic hazards production lines have on their workers is an important but often hidden aspect of the business. If your lines use manual or even semi-automatic process, the choice of improving your systems shouldn’t just be about ROI.

The impact of repetitive production line labour on the back, hands, shoulders, wrists and other pinch points can be undisclosed and significant. Improving your production line and drastically increase worker health, safety and happiness.

Beyond reducing the ergonomic hazards, increasing your market reach is another reason why many businesses are choosing semi-automatic and automatic machines. The lack of stackable pallets is a significant pain point for many businesses.

Inaccuracy and inefficiency drive many businesses to look for new and innovative solutions. Active Weighing Solutions provides market-leading bagging and weighing machines designed and built in Australia.

For many businesses, finding someone that understands how to build bagging and weighing equipment is just the benchmark. That’s why we make it our mission to understand further concerns around dust, sanitation, food safety and food quality.

When should you switch to automations?

Knowing when to pivot your business’s production line to incorporate a completely new machine, system or process is a difficult decision many business owners make. We believe there are six key aspects to knowing when your business is ready to choose or improve their automated systems.

  • Availability

    The total operational time your production line can manufacture something is a number most businesses want to increase. Automations typically increase the availability, the time total time your plant is operational, through many benefits and reasons.

  • Productivity

    Productivity can be simplified to measure how efficient your business is operating. Whether it’s labour, capital, material or total factor productivity-improving one aspect may drastically increase the productivity of something else.

  • Reliability

    As systems age the reliability decreases. We break the cumulative operating time of a system into three stages: early failure period, useful period and wear-out period. Defining the boundaries of the useful and wear-out period can be difficult. Ultimately, it comes down to your experience and the systems you’re using. When failures move from random encounters to common occurrences, it’s likely a sign you’ve entered the wear-out period.

  • Repair time

    Expanding on reliability, the repair time can influence your decision to upgrade greatly. Has the mean time to repair (MTTR) increased significantly? Have you tracked this data and planned for a maximum threshold your business cannot profitably operate at? Another aspect of the repair time to consider is how available are your spare parts suppliers and repair services? Have these costs increased since buying your system and is the cost negatively impacting your business?

  • Total cost of ownership

    The total cost of ownership (TCO) for a product encompasses everything from maintenance, staff training to decommissioning. This cost will always be a running estimate, but it can be used as a benchmark to help make purchasing decisions. Does the annual total cost of ownership return a profitable margin? Has this margin decreased rapidly in recent years? These are just some of the questions that may urge you to upgrade your machines and systems.

  • Upgrade clues

    Every business and machine will have different upgrade clues that should influence your purchasing decision. We’ve compiled some general clues we believe will help you define when you need to upgrade your bagging and weighing systems.

    Out of date:

    • Controllers
    • Hardware displays
    • Human-machine interfaces
    • Operating systems

Choosing between semi-automatic and automatic

The choice of upgrading to semi-automatic or automatic is typically rooted in cost. However, understanding the general benefits and features of these products can help your business make the right decisions.

Semi-automatic bagging lines

Custom engineering semi-automatic bagging lines will offer the most flexible system for those looking to fill and palletise bags at rates up to 20 bags per minute. The key component to semi automatic bagging is the gross weighers or net weighers — both offered by us.

Characteristics that should influence your decision here include: the handling speed, accuracy, materials handling properties, occupational health and safety, and ease of maintenance.

Some of the most popular semi-automatic bagging solutions offer an output of 14 bags per minute for the whole process. If you’re looking for higher rates, then systems with more mechanical assistance are typically needed.

 

Fully automated bagging lines

When choosing a fully automated bagging line, you’ll have access to an automatic turnkey bagging option with open for bags for free-flowing and non-free flowing products. Our GR900-15 Automatic Bagging Machine is an excellent example of a compact and robust bagging machine.

A fully automated bagging line will:

  • Reliably fill and close a wide range of bags up to 15 bpm
  • Take up less than 12 square metres
  • Integrated with automated bag palletising systems
  • Easily programmable with autonomous functions

 

Automated bulk bag filling systems

The design of an automated bulk bag filling systems means you’ll be able to deliver accurate, reliable and safe dry bulk filling options. Here at Active Weighing Solutions, we offer a number of options bulk bag filling systems.

An automated bulk bag filling system will:

  • Offer an overhead trade approved platform scale
  • Double stack filled bulk bags
  • Handle 60 tph and 20 tph when double stacked (500 kg bags)

 

Experts in weighing in-motion bulk materials

We design, manufacture and service weighing equipment and complete weighing systems. Our bagging, blending, process control and stock management solutions are market-leading products that a diverse range of industries around Australia and the world.

For more information regarding any of our weighing and bagging solutions, contact us today on 9873 7677 or by email using enquiries@activeweighing.com.au.