Automating or updating a line may come with a cost up front but if it is done correctly, it can lead to a large increase in your efficiency. You can also set yourself up for an easy expansion in the future. Here are some tips for the smooth and proper development of an automated production line:
1) Prepare to research and invest.
The price to purchase all of the machines needed to make a smooth running and efficient production line can seem overwhelming but don’t let that intimidate you. Remind yourself, if it is done right, the return on investment won’t be far behind. Buying quality and reliable machinery and hiring knowledgable operators is key.
2) Think of the future.
If you spend the time and money to develop a flexible automated and modular line, then when the time comes to add machines, increase speeds or expand it won’t be a hassle. If you are fine with running a line at 120 products per minute (PPM) today, that doesn’t mean that you should purchase a line with only that speed in mind. Future production systems and demand may eventually increase the need to produce more products per minute. Buy machinery that you will be confident could handle higher speeds one day.
3) Don’t forget about Accumulation.
No matter how efficient a production line is designed, some machines will have some down time naturally scheduled into their daily operations. Protect these machines and allow the rest of your line to keep running even when these machines are down. Do this by strategically placing your accumulations systems.
4) Get quality support.
Whether you are purchasing a new filler or a simple straight conveyor, make sure the customer support and maintenance included in the machinery purchase will be sufficient. Do the machines require a lot of maintenance? Maybe it would be worth it to find a different machine that would require a lot less maintenance or could be maintained by your in-house mechanic. Even if that easier to maintain machine turns out to be a bit more pricey, you could make up the difference and then some when considering the savings on intensive support and maintenance contracts.
5) Keep the customer in mind.
Sometimes increasing daily throughput or expanding may mean altering aspects of your packaging or changing your list of components or ingredients. It is always good to step back, like a painter from his canvas. Step back and look at it as a viewer, a consumer. If the objective may lead to a drop in quality, durability or functionality, think twice about reaching that objective through the map you’ve laid out. You’re smart. Figure out a way to produce the desired results without cutting corners. It will be worth it.