Do you remember the cartoon “The Jetsons,” where robots and machines cared for almost everything while humans did little more than press buttons and oversee the process? It seemed like the possibility of completely automated manufacturing might happen in the far-off future — and given how many times the machines went haywire, that might not be the best idea.
Well, that future is here. The benefits of automation in metal fabrication might include something other than the ability for supervisors like George Jetson to spend the day with their feet up on the desk. Still, they include some big advantages for companies like Midland Metal Products, our employees, and our customers.
Automation technology is transforming the entire manufacturing industry in incredibly exciting ways, and we are proud to lead the way in innovations that make production faster and more cost-effective without sacrificing quality. Let us show you how automation is revolutionizing nearly every aspect of the metal fabrication industry and giving us an edge over the competition.
Many of the processes in metal fabrication are time-consuming. It takes time to measure manually, place, cut, and drill metal with pinpoint accuracy, slowing down the manufacturing process and extending lead times.
Instead of completing each step of the project individually, automation technology can take on some of the work while human workers complete other tasks. Relying on automation for some processes helps fabricators complete work up to three times faster because it allows multitasking. The machines also allow for more work to be done in one location, shortening long lead times when different pieces come from multiple shops.
It’s quite simple: humans get tired, and machines don’t.
Fatigue is a major concern in any manufacturing environment because it can lead to more mistakes and injuries and slow production. Long working hours and detailed-focused (and sometimes tedious) work can tire even the most skilled fabricator and increase their chances of making avoidable errors.
Automation technology transfers some of the most repetitive and fatigue-inducing tasks to machines, eliminating potential avoidable errors. This doesn’t mean fabricators don’t have long work days or never feel tired after a shift, but it does cut back on some of the work that contributes to physical and mental fatigue.
There are always variables in human work. Even when two pieces look identical, there’s a chance for tiny imperfections or differences that affect the entire project outcome. Consistency is critical in manufacturing, and automation helps improve it by eliminating the potential for human error or variances.
Automation improves consistency because a machine can only do what you tell it to do. Assuming the fabricator inputs the correct instructions, the machine will work as instructed and produce the same results every time. This level of consistency is among the biggest benefits of automation in metal fabrication because it allows us to produce a higher-quality product, reduces the number of pieces that need recutting because of unacceptable differences, and saves our customers time and money.
There’s always the risk of accidents in metal fabrication facilities. Injuries from torching and cutting equipment can devastate workers and the company. Skilled metal workers have the training and skills to work safely, but even a minor user error can cause someone to get hurt on the job.
Automation technology significantly reduces the risk of injuries in the facility. Workers are less likely to have material-handling accidents while moving heavy or bulky components, and the equipment keeps them away from dangerous torches. The risk of repetitive stress injuries decreases since automation can handle the tedious work that can cause carpal tunnel and other debilitating work-related injuries.
They say that to err is human, but there’s no room for mistakes in metal fabrication. Even a minuscule error can throw off the entire timeline for a project and increase costs due to wasted time and materials. Automation produces more precise and accurate cuts, ensuring the best results.
One of the greatest benefits of design automation software is that it allows fabricators to solve problems with a design before the manufacturing process starts. Software for metal fabrication design provides the most accurate and detailed manufacturing drawings, cutting files, and instructions for the cutting machines, so there’s less room for human error and the natural imperfections that come from human cutting.
Automation supports faster service at every project stage. Recent trends have meant contending with lengthy supply chain disruptions and shipping delays, and the expectation is that domestic manufacturing will produce faster turnaround times. Investing in automation technology allows your company to meet even the most ambitious production goals.
This starts with metal fabrication design automation. Traditional design processes cause long lead times, resulting in unsatisfied customers. Automation slashes lead times by making it easy for customers to explore multiple configurations and get more accurate pricing and turnaround estimates. The process moves faster, so products get into customers’ hands sooner.
As mentioned previously, automation also supports streamlined workflows for faster production. Eliminating human error reduces the risk of time-consuming re-runs, allows facility managers to more accurately plan and schedule projects, and helps optimize the workforce.
Using advanced machinery also allows a metal shop to process materials faster. Computer-controlled laser cutters, oxyfuel, and waterjet cutters can make more accurate cuts faster than humans, so you can keep up with demand and stay on track with project timelines.
In today’s tight economy, businesses seek ways to trim expenses and lower operating costs. It’s hard to overstate the benefits of automation in metal fabrication when it comes to cost-cutting. Using automation reduces expenses in several ways.
Software-controlled automated fabrication technology offers unparalleled insights into fabrication processes, ensuring pinpoint accuracy and identifying quality control issues early on before they lead to issues that cause delays, cost overruns, and other problems.
Most computer-controlled cutting equipment requires a single operator, so you don’t need to have as many people on staff to handle the workload. Shifting tasks from humans to machines can also help you reduce labor costs. The improved safety aspect of automation also means your company is less likely to face huge bills related to worker’s compensation and injury claims.
Automation allows manufacturers to make the best use of their materials and reduce waste, lowering the manufacturing cost per piece — savings you can pass on to customers. When production costs are low, companies can be more competitive when offering cost-effective manufacturing to their customers.
Manufacturing produces a great deal of waste. Automatic cutting machines, like laser cutters, make precise cuts with less waste lowering material expenses. Automation also cuts costs for waste removal and management.
Cartoons like “The Jetsons” and science fiction may have given us slightly skewed expectations about what automation would bring, but there’s little doubt that it’s here to stay. It offers some major advantages to metal fabrication and manufacturing. The world is changing, and companies must invest in new technologies to keep up and maintain their competitive edge. So while you might not be able to hang out in the office and watch robots do all the work, you can experience the advantages of a lean, cost-effective manufacturing production process.
Midland Metal Products focuses on custom metal products and remains committed to investing in the newest technologies and methods to stay at the forefront of metal design and manufacturing. We make it possible for companies that might need more resources to take advantage of the benefits of automation on metal fabrication and produce exceptional products.
At Midland Metal Products, we’re not afraid of change. The future is exciting, and we are always evolving to meet our customers’ needs better. Contact us today at our Hammond, IN, headquarters to learn how we can use the latest state-of-the-art technology and processes to help you grow your business—call (773) 927-5700 to talk with a staff member.