Automation isn’t just for the biggest of the big. Small-batch producers can also benefit.
When most businesses think about factory automation, the images that come to mind are of high powered machines and advanced robotics producing hundreds of thousands of components a day, on long complex assembly lines. They don’t think about small manufacturers who are only producing a few thousand units a week—if that much. And yet, low-volume manufacturers have as much to gain from automation as their larger counterparts.
Automation isn’t just a way to increase output. It’s also a means of improving quality by standardizing processes. Automation can also make it easier to train new employees, as well as reducing tedious tasks. While automation may seem like overkill at first, a process that takes the time needed to produce 100 units from 10 hours down to 1 can have enormous ramifications for small businesses.
If any of the following sound familiar, our Universal Base may be the ideal solution for your business:
- You only produce a low volume of goods.
- Your operation doesn’t run five days a week.
- You have several automation needs.
- You need a machine with a small footprint.
- You need a machine multiple people can operate.
Our Universal Base is a cost-effective way for small manufacturers to meet their production goals, improve their production quality, and reduce strain on workers, all without asking them to over-invest in equipment that may not be the right fit for their business. Here’s how.
1. Expensive hardware is built into the Universal Base, keeping it cost effective.
We’ve created our universal base to come pre-equipped with the hardware most manufacturers need to get their work done. Because we’ve standardized the base production on our end, we are able to build and deliver it at less cost to our users.
The hardware provided by our standard build includes:
- Allen Bradley Standard
- CompactLogix PLC
- Panelviewplus 700 HMI
- Ethernet-IP connectivity
- Serial to E-net gateway
- HMI controls Fan, Lights, Height
- Numatics Valve Manifold with Eight valves
- Rotary Disconnect
- Courtesy Outlet
- Programming Port
- Locking Casters
- Fork Truck Tubes
- Painted to your specification
- Pneumatic lockout
- Filter, Regulator, pressure switch
- Pneumatics on the fixture
- Discrete I/O on the fixture
- Serial on the fixture (BCR)
- Analog on the fixture
- Other user requirements
2. Custom-designed tooling plates can be changed out in under a minute.
The greatest advantage of the universal base lies in its ability to be quickly reconfigured, based on a manufacturing need. You may have a product that requires several different tooling plates to complete, or you may have several different products that require automation—it doesn’t matter.
Since most of the automation cost is tied up in the base itself, custom designing tooling plates for each stage of your process is a relatively minor investment. You can even order new tooling plates if your process changes or if you want to create a new product line. And because exchanging the tooling plates can happen quickly by a single worker, the cost of switching plates is negligible.
3. The Universal Base can be easily moved and repositioned.
Small manufacturers are often working with a limited floor space. They may need to shift their production space from one part of the workshop to another, depending on the day’s task. We’ve built our Universal base so that it’s easy to move and dock anywhere on the factory floor.
4. Height adjustments and ambidextrous design make it easy for anyone to use.
“Ergonomics” isn’t just a fancy word to refer to comfortable office chairs. It’s also an important consideration for any human-operated workstation. An uncomfortable workstation that forces operators to work in a cramped or awkward position can result in excess strain or injury to the employee. Moreover, discomfort for the worker can translate to more mistakes and lower production quality.
Any operator workstation should accommodate its user, whether that means providing configurations for both left- and right-handed workers, or making it easy to adjust the workstation legs and monitors to accommodate workers of different heights.
5. Advanced technology makes Industry 4.0 accessible to small businesses.
Many small business owners hear about the high-tech advances of Industry 4.0 and assume these improvements are not for them. And while this may be true in the early stages of any groundbreaking technology, it’s also true that any revolutionary system will eventually filter down in a more affordable form, once the larger corporations have worked out how to make the process efficient.
For small manufacturers, the Universal Base offers a way to include data gathering, internet-enabled devices, augmented reality, advanced robotics, and high-end simulations to their businesses. There’s no reason a smaller workstation equipped with advanced monitors and an ethernet cable can’t be providing the benefits of Industry 4.0 that larger businesses have come to take for granted.
Contact Eagle to learn more about our Universal Base.
At Eagle, we want to bring the advantages of factory automation to businesses regardless of their size. In fact, we believe that making automation more accessible to smaller manufacturers will make it easier for businesses to become successful. The cost efficiency of our Universal Base, along with the more efficient production processes it enables, keeps start-up costs for small businesses low while helping them improve both their quality consistency and their output.
Our custom plates are carefully designed to meet the precise needs of our clients, and their interchangeability makes the Universal Base a more reliable investment for the future. If you need to update your production processes, you won’t need to replace your entire machine, just the tooling plate.
Eagle Technologies, headquarters in Bridgman, MI