Sun-Splashed Automation JourneysSeptember 26, 2022
Four years ago—when FABTECH last made its way to Atlanta, as it does again in 2022— I wrote here that:
- Forty percent of manufacturers plan to invest in automation and Internet of Things (IoT) technology in the next 5 yr.
- More than half—54 percent—are modernizing manufacturing lines for future automation.
- 38 percent of companies are retraining employees for different functions, presumably to work on automation equipment such as robots. They note that a significant hurdle to adopting automation is a lack of trained employees to utilize the equipment.
That data came from a 2018 survey conducted by L.E.K. Consulting, and so I thought I’d see if L.E.K. had issued a more recent manufacturing-trends survey, and indeed it has—this one specifically tracking the automation market. And, being that I’m writing this fresh on the heels of walking the IMTS show aisles, where seemingly every exhibitor touted new automation technology, I dove headfirst into the 2022 L.E.K. manufacturing automation survey to uncover any new trends.
Among the key tendencies revealed in the survey: Manufacturers continue to strive to take the cost out of production by automating processes that have previously not been automated—using pick-and-place robots, for example, to move parts through downstream operations.
Another factor driving investments in automation: the wish to update rather than replace aging machinery by retrofitting with sensors to avoid unplanned maintenance.
And a third trend: the quest for sustainability, which we know also has become a concern among metal formers. Reads the L.E.K survey: “Companies are increasing automation initiatives to reduce energy usage and reduce emissions (conveyors that switch off when not in use, for example).”
Is automation the golden ticket that many manufacturers hope for? It can be, but only when implemented thoughtfully. I liken automation adoption to the journey that companies take when installing a new ERP platform—select the right partner that understands your business and provides ongoing support and the sun shines. Otherwise, you’ll face stormy weather.
During IMTS I met with representatives from ERP provider Epicor, who shared the results of its 2022 Manufacturing Insights Report. The report reveals some of the needs and wants of manufacturers as they evaluate and ultimately work with an ERP partner, and I think that these specific needs and wants are in line with what manufacturers need from their automation partners.