What is Automated Manufacturing? The Impact on Global Production

Updated: Mar 17

Automated manufacturing uses several AI tools and technologies to produce manufactured materials. Learn what these systems are and how they impact the future.

Manufacturing companies are under an increasing level of pressure to produce goods and services quickly and efficiently. But with this increase in demand comes a more significant opportunity for innovation and technological advancement—and therefore faster and better services.


Fortunately, new developments with AI in manufacturing are opening doors for more production and heightened efficiency. With these benefits come new challenges, as manufacturing companies must seek to address the relationships between human workers and robotic manufacturing systems.


In this post, we’ll explain what automated manufacturing is, provide specific examples for multiple industries, and discuss how the characteristics of AI manufacturing may change the future marketplace.


What is automated manufacturing?


In general, automation refers to the use of technology or systems to replace and reduce manual effort. In the world of manufacturing, automation involves using equipment to remove or update manual steps at any stage in the production process.


Automated manufacturing can include several advanced tools and technologies, such as:

The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2022, up to 42% of manufacturing tasks could become automated. Although this migration has been gradual, the continual change to automated tasks has significant implications for corporations, small businesses, workers, and the global economy.


Types of automation systems


Manufacturers may use three primary types of automation systems to improve processes and increase production levels. Manufacturing companies can compare the costs and benefits of each kind of system to find the ideal fit for the goods and products they produce.


  • Fixed automation: Fixed automation is also known as “hard automation.” This name comes from the sheer quantity of goods produced as a result of a standard configuration. A fixed automation sequence ensures that each manufactured good that comes off the line is consistent, stable, and up to quality standards.


  • Programmable automation: Programmable automation is the most common type of manufacturing system for batch production methods. This type of automation uses a computerized system and coding to change the desired outcome or product. Programmable systems can be helpful for companies that produce different variations of the same product. Still, it’s important to consider the time it takes to change the internal workings of the automation.


  • Flexible automation: Flexible automation is also known as “soft automation” due to its high level of adaptability and remote monitoring. In this automation system, manufacturers can change medium-sized batches without the downtime required in programmable systems. Designers and engineers can quickly adapt the model to different products in real-time.


Characteristics and benefits of automated manufacturing


Automated manufacturing has many advantages that make it appealing to producers; several of these benefits are common characteristics that make automated or AI-designed tools what they are at an intrinsic level.

Examples of automated manufacturing systems


We’ve established that automated systems can positively affect manufacturing operations, but what are some of the most practical use cases?


Below are several modern examples of automated manufacturing systems (including artificial intelligence) as they occur in today’s production methods.


Assembly and production lines


Assembly and production lines have been a vital part of manufacturing since industrial times. Not only do assembly lines help corporations produce similar products, but they also increase workforce efficiency.


With modern technology and machinery, assembly lines have become more advanced than ever before. This is due in part to the three existing automation systems (fixed, programmable, and flexible) and advancements in artificial intelligence.


As manufacturers combine the time-tested productivity of assembly lines with contemporary automation technology, they can deliver consistent goods in less time.


Industrial robotics


Automated manufacturing systems, particularly those that leverage assembly or production lines rely on industrial robots and robotic machinery.


The robotic arm is the most common type of industrial robot. This technology can respond to pre-programmed functions and deliver highly repetitive tasks over a long period.


Robotic instruments are used in a variety of industries and settings. For instance, they may be used to place lids on jars of food, install small pieces on microchips, or assemble large vehicles. No matter what application they’re used for, industrial robotics help automate critical steps in the manufacturing process and allow managers to regulate the results consistently.


Predictive maintenance processes


When manufacturers rely on machinery and automated tools, it can be crippling when those tools burn out or need replacement unexpectedly.


With AI in manufacturing, companies can now more accurately predict and foresee when specific machines need updates.


Predictive maintenance is one way producers use AI to eliminate some of the most common frustrations when using heavy-duty equipment for manufacturing. In some cases, predictive maintenance systems even include cloud-based sensors or IoT Technology for remote monitoring and flexibility.


Human and robotic partnerships


Because human workers are still an integral part of manufacturing, manufacturers must think through these complex relationships. Manufacturing companies that rely on AI or automated technologies must answer whether it is safe, practical, and reasonable for human laborers to work alongside these tools.


Additionally, manufacturers must define the capacity for work once automated tools fulfill the roles they will complete.


For manufacturers that want human workers to produce alongside robotic elements, it’s necessary to adhere to advanced safety measures. Options may include automatic sensors, proximity monitoring, and environmental controls.


Implications of AI in manufacturing


Artificial intelligence solutions are making waves in nearly every industry, but the implications of AI in manufacturing are essential for anyone with interest in business operations or consumer products.


AI has several inherent characteristics that make it perfectly suitable for manufacturing use cases.


  • Predictive – AI solutions can preemptively identify product needs, maintenance requests, and the total system output.


  • Adaptable – AI is not a one-size-fits-all model. Engineers and designers can use AI in new applications to generate improved results for manufacturing teams.


  • Energy efficient – In years past, manufacturing engineers were not as concerned with the energy output in a manufacturing system. In today’s world, this higher priority concern is one area where AI truly excels.

The future of automated manufacturing


According to global management consultant McKinsey & Company, automated manufacturing methods are rising on a worldwide scale. As automation trends continue to grow in popularity around the world, they’re fueled by several important factors.

  • The cheaper costs of robots and robotic machinery

  • The increasing complexity of automation tools and AI-powered tools

  • A rising number of robotic engineers with manufacturing skills and backgrounds

  • The potential for human workers and automated robotics to co-exist

In the near and distant future, manufacturers may continue to seek cheaper and more effective ways to produce the goods that serve global populations. Additionally, an increasing number of workers may abandon manufacturing roles that are outdated, unsafe, or cost-prohibitive.


These combined factors bring us to a world where automated manufacturing will have a prominent place in society and the international economy.


Conclusion


As our modern business culture is hit with more demands in manufacturing and supply chain logistics, automated manufacturing is an enduring piece of the puzzle. An automatic process allows companies to grow, scale, and rise to consumer, government, and corporate demands.


AI provides a unique opportunity to revolutionize manufacturing capabilities. AI software, computerized robotics, and predictive processes will continue to expand new possibilities for manufacturers.


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The mission at AI Partnerships Corporation is to connect small and midsize businesses with AI solutions that help them grow and scale. We keep up with transformational tech trends (such as automated manufacturing) to match the right business partners and solutions. Discover an AI tool that’s perfectly suited to your needs by reaching out to our team today.

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