Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Automation planning: What is next on your smart manufacturing roadmap

May 12, 2023
By Sukanya Ray Ghosh

Photo: iStock/Getty Images Plus/peshkov

Recently, Manufacturing AUTOMATION hosted its ‘First Steps in Automation‘ virtual event for those manufacturers looking to adopt automation technologies in the near future.

The event discussed funding, seeking approvals from decision-makers, following best practices, tips for successful implementation, support resources and more.

Interestingly, industry experts discussed how there is often a lack of connection between what the upper-level management is facing and the actual situation on the plant floor. They explained, therefore, that it is essential to understand the business problem and tailor the automation solutions accordingly.

Here are some best practices that the speakers shared from their years of experience working with manufacturers.

  • Take a scalable approach to automation by picking one problem that can be fixed.
  • Work with competitive professionals who are qualified through their knowledge, training and experience in their fields of expertise.
  • Incremental automation is the key today. Select one process, one step, one station, one cell to solve a problem. Look for the “dull, dirty and dangerous.”
  • Consider why the automation project is needed in the first place and what you wish to achieve with it.   

Creating a roadmap for smart manufacturing

An important step in the journey is creating a smart manufacturing roadmap. This will allow manufacturers to plan what to implement, how to implement and when to implement automation technologies. Manufacturing AUTOMATION recently conducted a poll to understand where manufacturers are in their digital transformation journeys and what the next step is in their smart manufacturing roadmap.

Labour shortage is an oft-described challenge for this industry. It is therefore not a surprise that more than 40 percent of respondents indicated that building the right team with skilled personnel is the next step for them. The workforce today rightfully does not want to work in ‘dull, dangerous and dirty’ roles anymore. They are looking to perform highly skilled tasks that involve the latest technologies. Manufacturers in turn need personnel that can work with the very advanced and intelligent machines.

Automation minimizes the risk of human errors in manufacturing processes. However, workers still play a crucial role in overseeing and monitoring automated operations. Training enables workers to identify and rectify any anomalies or quality issues that may arise during the automated production process. They become proficient in conducting quality control checks, interpreting data, and making necessary adjustments, thereby maintaining high product standards. Industry 5.0, the next phase of the industrial revolution, is all about human beings working in tandem with intelligent machines.

Having the right team in place can ensure successful implementation of automation. At the end of the day, it is the team on the factory floor that will work with the new machines and leverage their full potential.

Interestingly, around 40 percent of respondents also shared that they are yet to begin a smart manufacturing project. Taking that first step can definitely be daunting. For small and medium-sized manufacturers, the decision to automate can either propel them to success or break their back with costs. It all comes down to having a strategic plan in place.

All sessions of the ‘First Steps in Automation‘ virtual event are now available on-demand. Industry experts who have been working in this space for years now offer their insights on how to ensure that adopting automation is a success from the very beginning.

Interestingly, less than 10 percent of the poll respondents indicated that they are either identifying processes to automate, selecting the automation technologies or setting their smart manufacturing goals.

It is key to remember that no manufacturing business needs to go through the entire process on its own. Associations, suppliers and systems integrators can all offer the needed support to increase the chances of success in the long run.

Here are industry case studies on how partnerships and strong relationships are highly beneficial:

Do you have a smart manufacturing roadmap in place? Share your experience at

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