Automation is a great way to quickly increase production and efficiency for any size business. Automation systems can decrease work in process, reduce manpower required per spindle, and can allow companies to be less dependent on highly-skilled labor. Automating current machines is an all around great way to immediately increase the bottom line in any production.
What exactly is Automation?
Automation in machining can mean a variety of things. It can be the integration of Rail Guided Vehicles (RGV), Flexible Metal-Cutting Systems (FMS), Matrix Magazines, and Robotic Loading. All of these types of automation solutions can be installed independently or together, depending on the needs of the customer. The amount of automation integration is different from shop to shop, making automation a very customizable process.
When automation systems are implemented with machinery, it is called an automation cell. These cells generally use RGV systems to transfer pallets from machine to machine. The advantage of using an RGV is that a practically unlimited number of pallets can be added to the cell, depending on the needs of the production. It makes for a quicker transfer of parts from machine to machine, and limits the need for manual loading and unloading.
Advantages of Automation
There are numerous advantages to automation that can directly impact the bottom line for a business. The spindle utilization rates are one way to judge the effectiveness of such a system.
In a normal two-pallet horizontal machining center, the average spindle utilization is around 55%. That means almost half of the time of a production, the machine is not cutting at all.
Compare that 55% to a Toyoda automated machining center. The average Toyoda FMS system has a spindle utilization of over 95%. That means shops can literally manufacture 40% more parts, substantially increasing their profits.
The spindle utilization is just the start of the kind of efficiency automation can bring. Automation cells minimize the amount of manual labor need, specifically highly skilled laborers. Automated machine cells generally only require one person to oversee multiple machines, and the process of oversight requires much less training than in manual systems.
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