As automation has become more sophisticated and more widespread it has solved many problems for manufacturers; not the least of which is helping with workforce depletion. However, that’s not the only thing it can help with. In fact, automation can help improve many areas of a business. But how do you know which automation to deploy and in which area of your business? While this article can’t tell you exactly what to do, as every setup is unique, it offers some basic guidelines to help you make the best decision possible.

Assess First

No matter what you’re trying to improve, assessment always comes first. This is the time to gather that data which will tell you needed information about each area or process of your operation. It’s a good idea to note any areas of inefficiency, where you might be losing profit, where production is lower because of a lack of workers, or where the cost outweighs the benefit. That will help you identify where to start. Then consider these three ways to tackle how to automate.

1. Choose The Most Impact

There are two schools of thought when trying to automate a process: automate an already efficient process, or automate one that desperately needs help. In this case, we’ll be talking about choosing an area where you can make the most impact. That usually means picking a process that needs more help over one that doesn’t. This will likely result in a huge jump in cost, time, labor, or other savings; or where you can see a large improvement in results based on a change. 

2. Smaller Wins

Another area you can focus on is where the cost or time to deploy is lower. This allows you to focus on processes that could benefit from one small change or only a couple of small changes. You can get started and see results faster using this approach. So your small wins build a foundation for improving more later, as costs go down and profits go up.

3. Specialty Areas

Another area to consider is one you think might not have a workable automation. There are many more options for machines with specialty skills than there used to be. In fact, many of these machines are designed as cobots (robots that work in tandem with a human to get the job done). This can mean increased efficiency as your skilled worker is freed up to work on more complex tasks while handing off simpler tasks to the cobot.

Look around your shop and factory and see if any of these areas can utilize automation to help it reach its full potential.