Top tips for automating your manufacturing processes

Posted on 4 May 2021 by Daniel Kirmatzis

Ahead of the Manufacturing Automation and Robotics Symposium on 20 May 2021 we asked some of this year’s speakers for their top tips to help manufacturers who are thinking about automating their production processes.

If you are considering automating aspects of your production processes, it is worth learning from those who have been there before to tell the story of what works and what does not. We spoke with one of the Symposium’s speakers, David Santos, for his top tips to help manufacturers get started on the right foot with their automation projects.

Speaker Profile

David Santos is an Automation & Robotics Lead Engineer at Cobham Aerospace, where David is responsible for developing flexible automation defence projects from scratch, including design, programming and installation using the latest technology on automation and Industry 4.0.

Before Cobham, David has worked at Collins Aerospace, responsible for automation on two facilities in the UK, two in France and one in Italy. David spent 16 years at Ford Motor Company with assignments in the USA, Brazil and Germany, responsible for the installation of more than 600 automation assets on assembly and machining lines.

What are the key elements for a successful automation project?

Depending on your what you produce and your production processes David advises that automation may not always be the best option for your business. It largely depends on if your processes are stable. Mapping out your processes is key to understanding if automation is right for your business. Once you have provided a business case for automation it is imperative to win over the right people and different teams within the business to ensure the long term success of an automation project. Key people may need to be upskilled when embarking on an automation project and David suggests that you bring them along on the journey, keeping them informed every step of the way so they share in your vision.

‘You might have the best automation processes in the world, but If you don’t have the right supply chain and quality, you don’t have manufacturing stability.’

Automation projects take time so David makes clear that you must be patient. After presenting a strong business case you must ensure that all the right elements of the project such as, financing, people, resources are in place and that each person knows exactly what their responsibilities are, before, during and after the proposed project. But crucially you should prepare for failure as well, successful automation projects, like any project, rely on meticulous planning, but the best plans can be thrown off course by unforeseen variables, so carry out thorough risk management assessments throughout.

Automation can improve productivity but David suggests you do your homework on technology suppliers. Instead of going for a new product, research technologies that have been proven to be successful and shop around for the right supplier for your business even if that means researching 3-5 suppliers. Once you have found the right supplier you should do a proof of concept to make sure what you want automating is going to fit in with the rest of your production line i.e. are your current production processes stable enough to implement automation?

David’s Top tips:

  1. Have a strong business case.
  2. Convince the right people in the business that automation will improve processes.
  3. Bring people on the journey with you making sure they share in the responsibility for the delivery of the project.
  4. Prepare to upskill key members of your team.
  5. Use simulation technologies such as a digital twin to prove the concept first.
  6. Map out who is responsible for key components going forward and plan for every eventuality, such as key personnel having time off or leaving the company.

Learn from the experts like David Santos by booking your place at the Manufacturing Automation and Robotics Symposium 2021 now

Want more tips, read the next article in the series: Where to start your automation journey.

Header image Courtesy Atos