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The Surprising Hidden Benefits of Automation

It’s no secret in wood manufacturing: our industry has a “workforce problem”.

Your best team members are getting older by the day, and new blood isn’t exactly rushing to replace them. In fact, in some locations, it can be borderline impossible to figure out how to get the people you need to properly staff your factory. Your team may have some highly skilled machine operators, but as the years go by, the workforce problem has to be addressed. This generally means one thing:

You’ve got to find ways to do more with the team you already have.

The good news is: this is exactly what automation is designed to do.

Benefit #1: Automation lets you leverage your current workforce to meet their fullest potential

Your current team can only do so much with the tools they have. Adding head count would help, but if you can’t do that, the next best thing is to provide your team with more powerful tools. This makes it possible to greatly increase output, efficiency, and more without getting more(human) hands on deck.

  • You can get more product made in a day.
  • You can get product made faster.
  • You can reduce errors and waste.

All of this leads to a simple outcome: your current team can be a lot more productive.

But all of that is probably something you already know – of course machines make factories more efficient. Where’s the surprise? Well, let’s consider a long term time frame.

Benefit #2: Automation enables companies to survive as the market continues to shift

Automation isn’t just an optional way to leverage your skilled professionals and increase output – it’s a matter of survival and sound long term strategy. This is because the workforce problem is only worsening over time. There’s a feeling in the air that eventually a factory manager might walk out on to the shop floor to find that nobody’s there!

Okay, this is an exaggeration, but it does highlight the issue pretty clearly.

Without leveraging automation and robotics to improve process efficiency and make smart use of skilled teams, many operations will be in danger of getting crowded out of the marketplace. The demand for your product is out there, but will you be the one who can quickly meet it when you get an inquiry, or will you be suffering from too much lag inhiring? That is, when the market wants your product, will you be forced to turn away orders because you don’t have the man power or capacity to handle them? And who will those orders go to?

This brings up a related benefit…

Benefit #3: Automation fuels competitive advantage

Forget mere survival – many companies would love to grow and thrive over time – and we’re all about that at AutomaTech. Indeed, automation technology is a key part of many companies’ growth strategy. The manufacturers that are best positioned to meet the demands of clients over the next five years will be those that can scale up production more smoothly with the help of robotics, as opposed to those that are scrambling to hire people that simply aren’t available. Being able to increase capacity mechanically means that you can accept orders that you might have turned away due to a lack of manpower.

Embracing automation not only increases your ability to take and fulfill orders in accordance with market demands, but also to protect and even grow your market share when opportunities arise. Overtime, the impact of highly efficient processes will be to put your firm ahead of those that simply can’t keep up and who haven’t planned properly for the future.

Benefit 4: Automation leads to “hidden” efficiency gains

Increased efficiency and productivity, along with decreased error rates, are obvious benefits of automation. But if we dig a little bit beneath the surface, we can see some of the less recognizable, more hidden improvements that automation brings.

Things like material handling and idle time can be untracked killers of productivity, and automation greatly reduces them. Instead of walking parts from one station to the next and manually changing CNC programs between part runs, computerized processes can speed everything up. This also allows your employees to focus on the more rewarding and higher-skilled aspects of their jobs, which can lead to a happier workforce (bonus benefit!). There’s also the productivity of each square foot of floor space you’ve got to consider, and robotics are quite powerful for maximizing that metric too (another bonus benefit!)

These little gains are everywhere, and once you’ve got a solid automation setup running, you can start to see all the ancillary benefits adding up.

The bottom line

As we say above, the ultimate benefit of automation is that it addresses one of the key limitations on your production capacity – a lack of reliable, skilled workers. With proper technology, your existing team can leverage their capabilities and scale up significantly. You’re also well positioned to meet the future challenges that the market will bring. You’re free to take orders as they come and grow your business without having to wait for new hires that may never materialize.

This isn’t to say that you’ll never be able to hire new people. We all know that’s not the case. But our message is that a proactive approach to the workforce challenge is one that puts the power in your hands through adoption of automated processes. Instead of being at the mercy of things beyond your control, you can take the bull by the horns and make an impact on the problem at hand.

Capital investments in robotics may seem expensive today, but the real question is:

How expensive will it ultimately be to not invest in automation?

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