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How 4D Systems Helps Manufacturers Achieve Automation ROI in Under 2 Years

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How 4D Systems Helps Manufacturers Achieve Automation ROI in Under 2 Years

Labor costs were high, but for this manufacturer, an even bigger challenge was to find qualified and willing staff to work their production line: there just weren’t enough of the right people to do the job. This is when 4D Systems came into the picture: after assessing their current process flow, 4D Systems modelled then deployed a fully automated solution which cut the workforce requirement in half, massively boosting productivity. Fast planning and implementation meant that this 4D Systems client realized their automation ROI goal in just under two years.  

Many American manufacturers are facing two major issues: on the one hand, labor costs remain high, which has a direct impact on product pricing and international competitiveness. On the other hand, though, many manufacturers face an acute skilled labor shortage: there just aren’t enough qualified workers to see a fully manual process flow through from end to end. In this environment, automation isn’t optional: it’s the only way forward. 

However, your automation strategy and the partners you work with can have a tremendous impact on ROI and your overall success. 

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at 

  • Labor and automation costs
  • Transition planning
  • Embedding safety
  • Energy factors
  • Leveraging the right type of bots

As some of the factors, you need to consider before implementing automation for your manufacturing business.

We’ll also look at how 4D Systems accelerates the process to deliver automation solutions with positive ROI within the first 2 years of operation. Let’s get started!

Labor and Automation: Smart Planning to Leverage Both and Make Major Efficiency Gains 

Contrary to popular belief, automation solutions aren’t out there to steal blue-collar jobs. In today’s market environment, they’re a necessity to make up for the lack of skilled staff who can work on the production line.

For many 4D Systems clients, the aim behind automation isn’t necessarily to save by cutting the workforce from 250 to 100 workers. It’s more about deploying smart solutions that will allow those 100 (or fewer), available workers, in the pool to get the job done with far greater efficiency. Because fewer staff are needed for a given production task, payroll costs do come down significantly. 

While automation robots are a major capital cost center, the month-to-month savings on payroll will more than compensate in as few as 24 months. When it comes to labor, 4D System’s priority is to maximize the efficiency of the skilled workforce that’s already there, freeing up your workers to focus on higher-level tasks that need direct intervention. 

Better Planning for a Seamless Transition 

One of the biggest challenges manufacturers face is the actual transition process from a manual workflow to a fully automated system. The risk here is obvious: if transitioning means a complete or partial shutdown, that’s an opportunity cost of thousands of dollars per hour as your production line stands idle. 

Strategic transition planning with a phased approach is critical to ensure continuity and minimize downtime. At 4D Systems, we’ll analyze your process flow to understand how automation robots can be implemented in a phased, low-impact way. 

We’ll help you draw up clear scopes and timelines months ahead of implementation to mitigate the impact of change. This means you won’t have to freeze production in order to make the transition, meaning cost savings every hour as you make the move. 

Embedding Safety from the Start 

Automation planning isn’t just about continuity. Safety is an incredibly important factor. 4D Systems ensures that safety features are embedded into your transition plan, right from the beginning. 

This means that you’ll be able to make decisions about light curtains, safety sensors, and guarding well before work begins. 

4D Systems will help you map out these features, as well as the spacing between robots, to the workspace you have available

You’ll have a clear idea of how your robots interact with their environment and with the people around them, minimizing the risk of safety incidents and ensuring compliance with standards.

Rationalizing Energy Costs Through Automation 

Robot-based automated manufacturing can actually be more energy-efficient than conventional processes. 

Manual, labor-intensive production lines use up a considerable amount of energy at every step.

 4D Systems implements next-generation automation systems with power requirements that are as little as 50 percent of the process they’re meant to replace. 

Significant energy use reductions could save you thousands of dollars each month,  another way that we help you reach a positive ROI faster. Energy savings from automated processes can also go a long way towards helping you meet state or nationally mandated standards for green and sustainable manufacturing. 

The Right Robots for the Right Job 

Automation robots are built with a wide range of specs and capabilities. Picking the right bots for the right job can have an impact on the overall productivity, as well as minimizing the transition time. At 4D Systems, we have access to bots from major brands including FANUC, Yaskawa Motoman, ABB, Kuka, and Kawasaki. 

We’ll assess your existing process flow to understand what type of robot works best at every step – for instance, a Cartesian gantry bot could be the best fit for your warehousing stage.  If you already use hardware from one of the major makers, we will help you incorporate a compatible robot solution to minimize turnaround time. 

The 4D Systems Difference: How We Empower a 24-month Turnaround Time For Robot ROI 

While most automated systems do eventually yield a positive ROI over manual production lines, it can take years to hit the break-even point. At 4D Systems, we work with you to build a highly optimized automation strategy that will tangible gains to your bottom line in 24 months or less. Let’s take a look at some of the ways 4D Systems empowers a faster ROI for your automation needs:

  • Risk assessment – we’ll provide you with a detailed assessment from a safety and compliance perspective to understand whether automation is the best fit, as well as actionable insights to mitigate issues well before the implementation stage
  • Upfront Simulation to prove out the use case: this’ll demonstrate tangible benefits within the parameters of your process, allowing us to iterate and improve on your automation strategy before actually deploying the bots 
  • Virtual commissioning: we use Siemens PLC and Dassault DELMIA to create digital twins of each bot in your specific implementation. This’ll empower us to plan out everything from floor space to safety concerns to minimize the actual implementation time. 
  • Strategically planning out floor space will help us maximize process and energy efficiency. This can potentially reduce monthly operating costs while boosting output. 

Conclusion 

With rising labor costs and a shrinking workforce pool of skilled talent, automated manufacturing systems aren’t optional anymore. 

You do have a choice, however, when it comes to your implementation partner. By leveraging strategic planning and proving out and optimizing your implementation in virtual space, 4D Systems can help you mitigate downtime, boost floorspace efficiency, and guarantee high levels of user safety. Our approach can cut your “time to ROI,” from several years to under 24 months. Reach out today at (800) 380-9165: let’s schedule a consultation call.

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