It has been well known for decades that automation is a key element in making manufacturing profitable, sustainable and cost effective. Automation however comes at a cost. Until recently, the manufacturing process, the resources it requires and the technologies that provide for its automation have been out of reach of those whose pockets were not deep enough – and deep pockets were needed indeed. Today, all of these are well within the grasp of even the smallest businesses. And if it’s growth you’re looking for, automation is key.
Automation has many meanings and can take on numerous forms for the small business. For start-ups that are usually understaffed and overworked, process and business automation is the first thing that usually comes to mind. There are many software, apps and online services to choose from that can free up human hands to complete more important tasks. But with the advent of crowdfunding platforms like Indigogo and Kickstarter and the access that individuals have to specialised equipment and components via the worldwide online market, manufacturing can now be added to the sphere of influence of automation for small businesses.
Many in the industry continue to perceive automation in manufacturing as an option only for larger businesses. This paradigm shift has not yet sunk in to the mind-set of the industry as a whole. But the truth is that affordable automation technology is readily available from which smaller manufacturers can significantly benefit. The difficulty however, is that there’s a lack of awareness of automation solutions for smaller businesses and of the benefits they can provide. Smaller manufacturing entities often don’t know what is available, and don’t even know how or where to ask for it. What kind of sensors are available, what kind of control cables should be used, should robots be considered at all in the manufacturing process?
The line on the size scale that separates the businesses that can from the businesses that cannot invest in manufacturing process automation has been steadily going down, and is continuing to do so today. The motivating force behind this paradigm shift is the fact that innovative inventors, or to use a more contemporary term, makers of today have direct and unrestricted access to information and technology that allows them to see the whole invention and development process from start to finish. Alexandru Duru of Omni Hoverboards is a fine example of this fact. Having built ‘the world’s first real hoverboard’ he can see the process through from start to finish, including the manufacturing process which must include automation to allow for his small business to grow.
Automation is something that cannot and should not be easily dismissed by the small manufacturer as something that’s too costly or out of reach. It is a very viable option and should be seriously considered as technology that will aid in the growth of small businesses.