Francesco Baldrighi, Sales Executive at APC Technology, specialises in supporting clients in the food and beverage sector. In this article, he exams the current trending benefits of introducing automation in a factory space regardless of size. Also the ability to offer affordable custom fit solutions to meet a client’s specific requirements.  

Factory automation has a major impact on a plant’s ability to maintain consistent quality and achieve any number of key goals. Automation solutions have evolved in recent years delivering an increased number of advantages including safety, traceability and increased competitive edge through reduced labour and inherent processing costs.

Safety

USA statistics have shown over a 30 year span there were 37 robot related accidents versus 4,585 overall fatalities in the same period*. These figures can be dissected to specific industries, but the data overwhelming supports workers are safer with automation processes in place. Benefits include a reduction in the risk of injury at an operational level through the removal of workers from dangerous work procedures. An automated system will also typically respond faster in emergencies because of the constant real-time monitoring, potentially taking care of a situation that previously may have been perceived as unavoidable. There is also the ability to update safety protocols quickly and efficiently ensuring normal operations are not disrupted.

Traceability

With the recently well publicised case of Mars recalling a range of brands in over 50 countries due to plastic contamination, the importance of traceability is critical to consumer confidence and sales whatever size the business is. Incorporating automated systems to manage products/ingredients through all stages of sourcing, processing and distribution is a necessity in today’s world where regulations have become stricter and more complex. Integrating an automated system that can quickly identify when and where a contaminated batch occurred can reassure consumers, protect a business’s integrity and reduce the impact on sales.

Increased competitive edge

Automation has become a determining factor in whether or not a company will remain competitive within the manufacturing industry. Whilst capital costs may be a major consideration, factory automation can not only decrease costs, but provide dramatic increases in production capabilities through increased speed, reduction of bottle necks and the capability to run 24/7. By improving processes and equipment effectiveness, the return of investment will reduce the cost of goods sold, increasing market competitiveness. Also an increase in capacity utilisation, can reduce time to market and inventory, further improving return on investment.

Automation integration can be achieved regardless of size

Automation is not just for the large manufacturers and can be integrated on a small or large scale. Any manufacturer can make the investment to achieve a sustainable, globally competitive business through the integration of automation processes. Finding suppliers who understand the needs of a smaller business is crucial in achieving a cost effective manufacturing system that meets a business needs.  

For over 30 years APC Technology has provided a range of solutions in the automation arena, including industrial computers, HMIs, input devices & custom food processing equipment for applications performing in the most demanding environments. This includes withstanding constant cleaning and disinfecting with a variety of harsh agents, whilst maintaining the highest levels of hygiene, performance, reliability and safety. APC Technology’s fully sealed stainless steel computers and HMIs can be designed to include a range of connectivity and protocols enabling the systems to be seamlessly integrated into a plant’s process control system. These protocols include Modbus, Fieldbus and Profibus. Additionally Cloud data storage and wireless communications are readily achievable through a range of industrial Wi-Fi and Gateway products.

Customisation Can Be Cost Effective

Smaller businesses can feel shoe-horned into choosing commercial off the shelf solutions which do not meet their requirements but appear to be cost effective. APC Technology specialises in designing & manufacturing customised solutions to meet a client’s budget and requirements. A recent client had identified the opportunity to improve the efficiency of its production line through the introduction of a solution designed to dispense absorbent pads as part of their meat processing facility. In consultation with the client, APC Technology designed and manufactured a custom solution to meet the needs of the manufacturer. For more information on APC Technology’s services please contact fbaldrighi@apctechnology.com.au.

Samples of solutions

Custom made panel PC made for managing milk production in the field
Stainless steel cabinet for use in the production line
About Francesco Baldrighi 

* http://www.robotics.org/content-detail.cfm/Industrial-Robotics-Industry-Insights/Robot-Safety-Everything-But-Routine/content_id/5653

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