Six Bottlenecks to Implementing Industrial Automation

Posted: February 28, 2024


Industrial automation is a tantalizing prospect for many companies - it can increase efficiency, ease staffing shortages, lower operating costs, and accelerate delivery to market. However, too often automation initiatives fail to deliver the expected benefits - here are some of the most common reasons why (and how your company can avoid them).

Cost of Implementation

Though the prices of robotics have come down considerably in recent years, the upfront costs associated with implementing industrial automation solutions can be prohibitively expensive - from tens of thousands of dollars for automating a single process to hundreds of thousands (or millions) for full-scale automation. The sticker shock of a capital expenditure can prevent manufacturers from seriously considering automation. 

However, there are ways to mitigate cost as a barrier to deploying automation in your organization:

  • Cost-benefit: Conducting a thorough cost-benefit analysis can help make the case - particularly if you haven’t run the math recently (for example - the challenges with finding enough skilled workers in the current labor market).
  • Prioritize impact: Related to investigating the return on investment (ROI) on automation, there are likely some aspects of your operations that have an outsized potential for operational efficiency and cost savings - and they help make a stronger case for investing in automation.
  • Start small: In some cases, there may be turnkey solutions that can start your automation journey to demonstrate the return on investment and grow your company’s confidence in automation. At JR Automation, we can help you ensure these investments are future-proof and can be easily scaled or integrated into larger solutions.
  • Financing: Exploring flexible financing options (such as leasing or financing) can spread out the initial costs over time.

Complexity of Integration

Integrating industrial automation solutions with existing infrastructure and legacy equipment can be difficult - leading to compatibility issues and project delays. Additionally, your product(s) may not be designed for automation. This is where the advantage of an experienced integrator like JR Automation is critical - our decades of experience allows our engineers to design and build solutions no matter what your existing technology is.

  • Engineering: Our teams are fluent in many programming languages, which allows us to standardize communication protocols and interfaces for seamless integration.
  • Designing for Automation: Our engineers can provide feedback on ways to enhance your products so they are ready for automated manufacturing or assembly.
  • Modular solutions: A modular approach to automation can break down barriers to adapting and integrating solutions into existing workflows.
  • Collaborative partners: The closer your team is able to work with your integrator, the better they can understand the nuances of your unique workflow and design solutions to mesh with it. 

Workforce Training and the Skills Gap

When automation is at its best, it handles the simple and repetitive tasks so that your people can focus on the highest and best use of their time. Automation introduces new ways of thinking about and doing work - which requires training and adjustment. A lack of skilled personnel who are proficient at operating and maintaining automation systems can undermine the success of your program. As a result - it’s important to make sure your automation partner will support you with the following:

  • Training: Comprehensive training programs for employees to build the technical skills and proficiency in using automation systems.
  • Knowledge transfer: Documenting processes and procedures to capture and share expertise among both experienced employees and new hires is critical to keeping automation solutions running smoothly.
  • Continuous learning: Fostering a culture of professional development and continuous learning in your team is important to be ready for the emerging challenges manufacturers will face.

Cybersecurity Concerns

Industry 4.0 has resulted in numerous benefits to manufacturers - but it’s also introduced new threats as more connectivity and data exchange in automated systems increase the need to guard against digital intrusions. Hacking, data breaches, IP theft, and malware or ransomware attacks can bring production to a halt - so a proactive approach to cybersecurity is now a core competence for manufacturers.

  • Protective measures: Implementing firewalls, encryption and access controls will help keep production running.
  • Ongoing vigilance: Regularly updating software and firmware will patch security vulnerabilities and mitigate risks as they emerge.
  • Employee training: Continuous learning for your team includes cybersecurity training to ensure they’re aware of threats and observing best practices.

Reliability and Maintenance

Realizing the ROI of industrial automation means your cells or lines need to consistently run at peak performance - you can’t afford breakdowns and downtime! The right automation integration partner will help you with everything you need to ensure your operations stay up and running. Here’s how:

  • Equipment and component quality: An experienced automation partner can recommend the most reliable and highest quality equipment, as well as help you source your technology needs, and provide maintenance and replacement parts.
  • Scheduling: Your automation integrator will recommend proactive maintenance schedules and procedures to minimize disruptions and downtime.
  • Predictive maintenance: Using a combination of IoT (Internet of Things) sensors and digital solutions, it’s possible to monitor overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and detect potential failures before they occur.

Scalability and Flexibility

As we’ve all experienced in recent years, change is a constant and your automation solution needs to be able to scale and adapt with the needs of your business. Your automation partner should design agility into your solutions. 

  • Modular and standard: A combination of modular architectures and standardized components can make it easier to expand or upgrade your systems when the need arises.
  • Flexibility: Production processes and workflows should be engineered to accommodate changes in product mix, volume, or customization requirements.
  • Ongoing optimization: Regular monitoring and evaluation can help ensure your systems remain aligned with evolving business goals and the changing needs of your markets.

Overcome Industrial Automation Challenges

An experienced automation partner can help your business address common challenges proactively and design flexible, scalable solutions to ensure your investment in automation is an ROI success. Contact JR Automation to find out how your company can tap into the benefits of Industry 4.0 to unlock new levels of efficiency, productivity and competitiveness.