AUTOMATION STRATEGIES - Production and Operations Management

Strategies of Automation

There are certain fundamental strategies that can be employed to improve productivity in manufacturing operations technology. These are referred as automation strategies.

  1. Specialization of operations: The first strategy involves the use of special purpose equipment designed to perform one operation with the greatest possible efficiency. This is analogous to the concept of labor specializations, which has been employed to improve labor productivity.
  2. Combined operations: Production occurs as a sequence of operations. Complex parts may require dozens, or even hundreds, of processing steps. The strategy of combined operations involves reducing the number of distinct production machines or workstations through which the part must be routed. This is accomplished by performing more than one operation at a given machine, thereby reducing the number of separate machines needed. Since each machine typically involves a setup, setup time can be saved as a consequence of this strategy. Material handling effort and non-operation time are also reduced.
  3. Simultaneous operations: A logical extension of the combined operations strategy is to perform at the same time the operations that are combined at one workstation. In effect, two or more processing (or assembly) operations are being performed simultaneously on the same workpart, thus reducing total processing time.
  4. Integration of operations: Another strategy is to link several workstations into a single integrated mechanism using automated work handling devices to transfer parts between stations. In effect, this reduces the number of separate machines though which the product must be scheduled. With more than one workstation, several parts can be processed simultaneously, thereby increasing the overall output of the system.
  5. Increased flexibility: This strategy attempts to achieve maximum utilization of equipment for job shop and medium volume situations by using the same equipment for a variety of products. It involves the use of the flexible automation concepts. Prime objectives are to reduce setup time and programming time for the production machine. This normally translates into lower manufacturing lead time and lower work-in-process.
  6. Improved material handling and storage systems: A great opportunity for reducing non-productive time exists in the use of automated material handling and storage systems. Typical benefits included reduced work-in-process and shorter manufacturing lead times.
  7. On-line inspection: Inspection for quality of work is traditionally performed after the process. This means that any poor quality product has already been produced by the time it is inspected. Incorporating inspection into the manufacturing process permits corrections to the process as product is being made. This reduces scrap and brings the overall quality of product closer to the nominal specifications intended by the designer.
  8. Process control and optimization: This includes a wide range of control schemes intended to operate the individual process and associated equipment more efficiency. By this strategy, the individual process times can be reduced and product quality improved.
  9. Plant operations control: Whereas the previous strategy was concerned with the control of the individual manufacturing process, this strategy is concerned with control at the plant level of computer networking within the factory.
  10. Computer integrated manufacturing (CIM): Taking the previous strategy one step further, the integration of factory operations with engineering design and many of the other business functions of the firm. CIM involves extensive use of computer applications, computer data bases, and computer networking in the company

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Production and Operations Management Topics