If you find yourself wondering if automation can improve prefab manufacturing efficiency, look no further than the auto industry. Henry Ford started it all in 1913 and the auto industry has been increasing efficiency, lowering costs, improving quality and working safer ever since.  The same will be true in construction. 

Automation will undoubtedly advance your business if it is implemented responsibly.  The following insights will help you pull that off.

Humans are still an integral part of the manufacturing process.  It is not uncommon for an auto company to invest 100’s of millions of dollars (sometimes billions) in a fully-automated vehicle assembly plant.  Yet, 2000+ people still work in that plant! 

 

There are 2 reasons for this;

The Right Mix

Technology has come a long way since 1913.  A long, long way.  However, there are still a significant number of tasks that well-trained humans are better suited for. Car makers expertly balance the benefits of humans and automation. You should too. It is critically important that your automation partner understands which tasks are conducive to automation and which tasks are not. 

Projects with the highest probability of generating a return on investment must be executed first. Follow the lead of auto companies and use the optimal balance of humans and automation to maximize efficiency. Then, use the proceeds to take on higher-complexity projects.

 

A Manufacturing Approach

Automation presents a tremendous opportunity but too often customers focus entirely on acquisition and not enough on operating and maintaining their new technologies.  Referring back to the vehicle assembly plant example, a significant portion of the 2000+ employees are engineering and maintenance personnel who make sure the automation runs as expected. Operations would not be possible without this supporting cast. 

Further, automated plants are required to have significant spare parts inventory on hand.  As a manufacturing process becomes more dependent on automation the tolerance for downtime decreases. So, experiencing downtime while waiting for a spare part quickly becomes unacceptable. 

In conclusion, an investment in automation has an extremely high probability of generating a solid return. However, you must consider the cost of ownership in addition to the capital cost of acquiring automation equipment. Once again, it is absolutely critical that your automation partner has the knowledge and experience to help you predict and manage these costs. 

 

Mike Wynnyk , Vice President | Brave Control Solutions