Entry Level Automation: Is It Right For You?

Most, if not all, shops have at one time or another thought of full automation on current products they run or are currently quoting. A lot of companies are already engaged in some form of automation. We at Fuji hope to take the mystique out of this process and encourage potential shop owners of all sizes to qualify their need(s) for automation. This is a step-by-step process for evaluating your company to see if automation is right for you.

 

Most, if not all, shops—from jobbers and mid-sized manufacturers all the way to tier one suppliers—have at one time or another thought of full automation on current products they run or are currently quoting. A lot of companies are already engaged in some form of automation. To others, however, the thought process for automation can seem extremely daunting. We at Fuji hope to take the mystique out of this process and encourage potential shop owners of all sizes to qualify their need(s) for automation. Below is a step-by-step process for evaluating your company to see if automation is right for you.

1) Ask yourself if you are ready for automation. We think the companies that feel they are not ready for automation will be left behind like those that had turret lathes and waited too long to change to CNC lathes.

2) Typical lot size for automation is 100,000 pieces minimum per year. Please note that this could be a combination of a family of parts. However, frequent changeover on automation is not conducive unless the process for each part is thought out and planned carefully beforehand. In this case, changeover is at a minimum, and automation will work fine, as several of our users have experienced.

3) Application, in our mind, is the first issue to study to determine if automation is a cost-effective solution. We study every application as though it has never been run before. This allows us to study the part from many different angles. We look at the basic cutting process, and then we study chip control. (Chip control can make or break automation.) We also study every application to determine if auto gaging should be used. In some applications, the tolerance and the CPK alone determine if the process will require autogaging.

4) Cost effectiveness is, of course, the underlying reason to consider automation. When we study a part, we do not look at the process in the conventional manner, which might be by asking someone to do a time study. We study the whole process from beginning to end. We look at how many parts per year, how many hours per day, and how many days per year. We check the efficiency rating and the required target cycle time. With this information, we can develop a Takt time (rhythm or how many seconds per piece from start to finish). From there, we can tell the customer how many machines are required at what cost and get a timely delivery. This, of course, is quoted as a full turnkey application with a guarantee in writing from Fuji.

5) For us, one of the most important factors involved in automation is that we desire a complete working relationship with each of our customers. This guarantees success and keeps the end user fully engaged in the entire process.

6) We like to think we have taken the guesswork out of purchasing an automated cell. We feel that our experience is unsurpassed in the industry, which should remove any uncertainty that may be encountered by a more inexperienced vendor.

7) An important factor that is usually left out of the process is the upstream and downstream equipment in the cell process—in other words, the equipment or process that may be performed on the part prior to being staged for the Fuji machine and the subsequent operations after the Fuji machines. Knowing this allows us to understand the conditions of the part beforehand and afterwards, so we can have the luxury of recommending possible alternatives for streamlining the complete process.

Of course, there are other factors that can be used to determine the need for automation. Every company has its own reasons. We at Fuji welcome the opportunity to discuss any application with any company in order to supply what we believe is the best solution for the money.