Automation Doesn’t Have To Be A Budget Headache – 2021 Could Be Your Year

By Bill Griffin, CRO, Bright Machines

Originally posted on Bright Machines Blog

As the world grapples with Covid-19, manufacturers are seeing firsthand the benefits of adding automation to their production lines. Many continue to contend with drastic alterations in the economic landscape, changes in product demand, and strict OSHA guidelines limiting the number of people that can safely work in factories at any given time. A prominent narrative that will ultimately tell the story of manufacturing during the Covid-era will be the value brought forth by intelligent automation in factories. Automation itself is not a new concept; it has been a mainstay in factories for decades. But until recently it has been an expensive, clunky and drawn out process that often hinders more than helps. With the introduction of intelligent software, automation can now work with adaptive hardware to provide a flexible, fast, and most importantly – affordable – automation solution that is well worth the investment in 2021.

Automation’s value today 

Many supply chains strained by the pandemic were forced to employ a “bend-don’t-break” model in the hope they could manage the headaches associated with current global markets. With intelligent automation, however, manufacturers have made production lines more resilient and able to withstand sudden changes in consumer demand, factory closures, and other unexpected shifts. Intelligent automation like that provided by our microfactories allows factories to produce more units per hour, allowing manufacturers to scale production quickly. It also provides the opportunity for the assembly of high-quality products that aren’t hampered by unreliable, unscalable human hands. Our customers demonstrate this best: one automotive manufacturer implemented software-defined automation into their factories and saw a 60% increase in productivity while eliminating the need for human touches on the assembly and inspection line, driving costs down, and increasing the quality of the product. Another manufacturer of firewalls saw a 69% reduction in overall costs. Cutting down on manual labor saves manufacturers money, which is even more critical in these days of socially distanced factory environments. Beyond production increases and cutting costs, bringing automation to the factory imparts the ability to quickly pivot production lines to accommodate changes in customer demand, and repurpose lines via configurable robotic cells and software.

Automation, without the painful cost

While it’s hard to argue with automation’s value for today’s manufacturing lines, whether or not automation is a good financial value is another thing entirely – and something many manufacturers struggle to justify as they carve out annual budgets. After all, traditional custom-made “from-scratch” automation solutions require a significant capital investment from the get-go. In today’s economic climate, budgets are tight. They could get tighter as the world rebounds from the pandemic – high upfront costs and uncertainty around ROI are enough to deter manufacturers from exploring an automation solution.

Fortunately, automation no longer has to be a budget headache.

By treating automation as opex vs. the CapEx, it’s easier than ever to incorporate it into budgets. It can also be a realistic and attainable goal for manufacturers to balance budgets and enter the new year with newfound financial prosperity.

Our microfactory-as-a-service offering, Bright Machines Select, allows manufacturers to implement next-generation automation into their factories at a low cost and low financial risk. With no upfront cost and a low annual fee comparable to that of using human operators, Bright Machines Select makes it simple for our customers to pay for automation out of their regular workforce operating budget instead of performing a lengthy ROI evaluation. We find that most customers pay the same (or even less) for Select annually than they would pay manual operators in the same time period.

To future proof their factories and ensure smooth sailing through any possible disruptions that the coming year may bring, manufacturers must put automation on the top of their 2021 budgets. Now, it’s easier than ever to do so – so why wait?