3 Reasons Reliability Is Crucial for Process Automation

By Emily Newton   

Features ippt

Photo by Mikhail Nilov

Process automation done well can significantly reduce errors while raising overall output and removing bottlenecks. However, even the best efforts will fall short if the people involved don’t prioritize reliability.
Here are some compelling reasons why that’s a crucial aspect.

1. It Increases Competitiveness

A company with reliable processes to automate is in an excellent position to achieve better marketplace resilience. That’s especially true if it has an extremely high daily product output. Reliability helps reduce quality control failure rates, speed product changeovers and more.
A recent example concerned Spitz, a food and beverage manufacturer that upgraded an Austrian factory to feature more automated processes. As Walter Scherb Jr., CEO of the Spitz Group, explained, “The goal is to manufacture new products even more quickly in the future. To achieve that, we’re relying on developing our own recipes as a decisive competitive advantage.”
The company has 30 process lines and 35 filling and packaging plants. That setup collectively allows approximately 1.2 million products to leave the facility every day. Those items range from jam to sliced bread and iced tea.
Every process handled in the factory was converted to a digital format. As Scherb explained, “Our existing system for production control was no longer able to handle the demands of digitalization. We wanted to implement a new, future-ready system that could be expanded over the long term. It was important for us that we be able to control all production processes via one system and process them in real-time.”
The drive for increased digitization meant processes is the same across all Spitz plants. That reliability makes it easier for leaders to compare data when needed and assess things like which path a raw material takes along various assembly lines.
Without the all-important reliability factor, Spitz representatives could not get the full advantages automation can bring. However, since it is in the mix, the company is well-positioned to be a strong competitor well into the future.

2. It Boosts Confidence in Data

Today’s leaders must frequently make critical decisions while under pressure. Some of their choices are even related to whether a process should be automated or made by hand. Reliable data can also show whether process automation efforts have succeeded to the extent that people hoped at the outset. Companies also use this information to keep operations running smoothly, such as to decide when to perform maintenance on critical equipment.
Fortunately, due to how it’s relatively easy to get high-quality, real-time data, this information can prove invaluable for reaching the most appropriate decisions faster and with more peace of mind. However, if people don’t build their process automation strategies on reliability, the data coming from them could be difficult or impossible to trust.
Several factors help create data people can and should use while making decisions.  First, the relevant parties need ongoing and transparent access to the information. Cloud computing typically makes it easier for authorized people to get data from wherever they are, as long as there’s an internet connection.
Decision-makers must also see data in the correct context before using it. This helps people verify the meaning behind statistics, then act on what they’ve learned. Finally, the information must also remain secure before, during and after use. If anyone worries a malicious party has tampered with it, they likely won’t feel comfortable depending on it.
Trustworthy data can reveal how process automation works well and where room for improvement exists. However, unreliable information is arguably even worse than having none. It could mislead people and cause faulty conclusions that harm the business immediately and over the long term. However, that’s less likely to happen if reliability is a top-of-mind issue.

3. It Raises Productivity

Manufacturers use various processes to meet output needs depending on the products made and the associated demand. Batch processing is a frequently chosen method when it’s necessary to make large quantities of perishable goods. It works best with groups of identical processes produced step by step. The next production phase does not go ahead until the previous one finishes.
This manufacturing method has a lower setup cost than some others. It also allows companies to reduce risk if leaders do not know how much demand there will be in the future.
Another advantage is that batch processing is well-suited for full or partial automation. Optimizing such efforts can initially pose challenges, especially if numerous steps require changeovers. However, after addressing those potential hurdles, company leaders can often look forward to improved productivity overall — at least if they keep reliability a top priority.
After all, efforts to increase output through batch processing will fail to meet their potential if the existing automated processes are not yet reliable. Repeating error-prone steps could elevate recall probabilities or instances where products don’t pass quality control examinations.
Suppose reliability is a foundational element before automation plans begin. In that case, it’s easier to take a “set it and forget it” approach and move to only exercising minimal supervision over a manufacturing step. After that, people can feel confident that the items produced will come out as expected.

Don’t Pursue Process Automation Without Reliability

Moving ahead with process automation without ensuring reliability is in the mix first could waste time, lead to adverse outcomes and make it more difficult for people to notice automation’s advantages. However, when people make sure processes are reliable first, they build an excellent base for success.
Emily Newton is an industrial journalist and the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized.

Print this page


Stories continue below