Businesses can choose to automate tedious, dangerous or laborious production tasks usually done by workers. Automation offers increased productivity, product uniformity and safety for workers. However, the initial costs of an automated system can be high and may not make sense at low levels of production. Human workers offer more flexibility and dexterity in product assembly than automated systems can offer.
Productivity and Consistency
Automation usually increases productivity and the uniformity of a product. Unlike workers, automated systems can run at all hours, including weekends. Longer production hours means products can be produced in a shorter time. The system robotics create a product that is consistent and uniform. Humans are prone to error, and products that aren't uniform can detract from overall product quality or cause problems down the road.
One of the largest benefits of an automated system is the increase in safety it provides for worker. System parts and robotics can work in extreme temperatures and withstand harsh circumstances unsuitable for humans. Businesses can use automated systems to perform the most hazardous and dangerous steps in the production process. Fewer injuries means less turnover, lower workers' compensation claims and higher morale.
High Initial Costs
While automation could lower variable costs over time, the initial development costs can be prohibitive. It's notoriously difficult to accurately estimate the research and development costs to design the machinery to automate processes. Even if the business is buying predesigned machinery, the initial purchase costs might not make financial sense at low levels of production. If the company doesn't have adequate cash flow and reserves, the automation option may be off the table. In contrast, labor costs are usually predictable and aren't front loaded.
Lack of Flexibility
One of the advantages of automation is increased uniformity in a product. However, automation may not be a good idea for product creation that requires flexibility and dexterity. Tasks that require manual dexterity, like assembling products with varying component sizes, can be difficult to automate. Human workers may be able to assemble a quality product even if there are slight deviations in size or specifications of the components. Automated systems, on the other hand, usually require a small margin of error on products to assemble products. The business must adhere rigidly to component specifications and may experience more waste.
- Photo Credit Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images