With Change Comes a Need for Flexibility
It’s no secret that the world has changed a great deal over the past few months, and as a result, companies’ production environments are going to be changing, too. Virtually every business was impacted in the short- and long-term as a result of COVID-19, but now that we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to start planning for how production will resume in the weeks and months ahead. Despite this progress toward normalcy, the reality is that it’s more of a shift toward uncertainty as the norm.
For companies that leaned on industrial automation to keep their businesses running, one of the best ways to ensure you are prepared for what’s ahead is to lean on flexible automation technology. Employing flexible automation technology now is vital for companies to sustain growth, keep a diverse range of products flowing through their lines, and minimize the downtime associated with product changeovers. Advances in industrial technology and the overall evolution of automation over the past century have been unprecedented.
In today’s uncertain environment, the products or goods companies were making may not return to previous levels of demand for months, if not longer. Conversely, there may be a sudden need for a variety of different products. Agility is the name of the game now, and for companies looking to strategize their approach to production, flexible automation and especially flexible feeders will be a key aspect of that strategy.
What Are Flexible Feeders?
Flexible automation will allow manufacturers more versatility in creating products while minimizing downtime. They are highly highly-adaptable systems with computer input and controls across the entire manufacturing process. This includes the material handling and part feeders that are now more of an integral part of the overall system. With flexible automation systems, multiple production machines can be connected to sophisticated material handling and part feeder systems typically through robotic automation. Without flexible feeders to present parts to robotic automation, the overall effectiveness of the system would not be feasible.
Flexible feeders are capable of processing multiple product types without retooling the machines. As system requirements and demands change, the flexible feeders have the adaptability to handle them. These feeders can manage changes to production schedules, demand patterns, and product mix changes with minimal changeovers.
Why Include Flexible Feeders In Your Automation Strategy?
1. They Prove Faster RIO
The first reason to include flexible feeders into your production facility is simple math. Why buy multiple feeders to do what one or two systems can achieve, especially when your focus could shift rapidly? Note that this isn’t about quantity but rather purpose and utility. While you might need more than one feeder operating at a time to achieve your goals, what matters is that a flexible feeder can be adapted to your needs quickly.
You might have three feeders running for a specific part type or downstream operation, but what happens when business needs shift? Can those feeders be reconfigured to meet that need? Or do you have no choice but to shut them down, turning them into nothing but an expense and use of valuable space in your facilities? What return are they providing to you now? With flexible feeder systems, they can change out tooling to adapt to a wider range of parts or escapement configurations. This means your operation is barely impacted, production uptime increases, and you can continue delivering. If things change again, the system will be ready.
2. They’re More Efficient
While any form of industrial automation is certainly a step in the right direction, flexible feeders offer greater advantages in that they are designed from the start to become what your business needs to meet its production goals — even if those goals change from one week to the next. And when that change occurs, the weak link in most systems is how to manage the fixed material handling systems.
With flexible feeders, it’s just a matter of reconfiguring the system to the parts or components that you need to move from A to B. Many material handling systems and part feeders are designed with weldments which provide no flexibility for change. Flexible feeders have interchangeable tooling that allows for a wide range of part configurations.
This investment in flexible feeders means you can continue meeting your production goals. It means the other equipment operating in tandem with the feeding systems can continue to be used, preventing you from having to make additional investments in loaders and other machines. The result is less waste across the board.
3. They Position You for the Future
While it seems like things are returning to normal, for many businesses, it’s not so much a return as it is a journey into what’s “next.” For months, we’ve been focusing on keeping our employees and customers safe that long-term strategic goals seemingly took a backseat. That “next” is still very much so unknown, and some even believe that the world will still be navigating this new normal for years to come. With flexible feeders, your organization has what it needs to keep producing — even if products, parts, and components change. The strategy becomes the ability to respond to change with agility and ease.
There is a competitive aspect to this as well. As more companies contemplate reshoring operations back in the U.S., this means finding unique solutions to remain competitive. Automation will continue to be the answer for most companies on how to deal with the labor shortage and cost headwinds of the future. Flexible automation and especially flexible feeders provide one such solution for the future.
Put Nearly 75 Years of Flexibility to Work for Your Success
Feedall Automation has been producing custom-engineered industrial automation equipment for industries worldwide since 1946. Our part feeding systems are second to none, and each one is designed and built specific to the needs of each client. We begin with a base design for each feeding system that is then reconfigured and further engineered to perform the functions our customers need with minimal maintenance and unmatched service and support, including on-site training and repair.
Every year since our founding, our business has been helping customers adapt to the changing needs of their markets. Our flexible feeders make our clients more productive, more efficient, and more competitive with every part fed. If you’re looking for an industrial automation solution to usher your business into the world ahead on a strong and agile foundation, we’re ready to partner with you.