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10 common mistakes manufacturers make when purchasing automation equipment

This blog post was contributed by Marty Grimes, President at Assembly Solutions, Inc. Assembly Solutions has decades of experience crafting innovative, cost-effective automation and assembly solutions. Assembly Solutions represents Cincinnati Test Systems’ product line in the regions of Southeastern Indiana, and the state of Kentucky. To contact Marty and his team, please visit: 
Through decades of working with manufacturers to develop effective and innovative automation systems, I’ve noticed a few common things that can contribute or hinder the success of a project. Here are 10 common mistakes to avoid as you consider your next automation project that will make the process run much smoother and result in the best solution in the end. 

1. Not having an equipment specification

Before reaching out to a solution provider, consider all the information you are going to need to provide. This includes determining leak rate, test pressure, cycle rates, etc. Also, if you’ve had issues in the past, take the time to document these problems so that they can be reviewed. And more specifically, if you have run this product before, document how the process went—the good and the bad. This is especially important with a custom spec. This will help streamline the process and make sure you get a solution that best delivers on your needs. 

2. Choosing an automation house unable to meet your needs 

Before selecting a prospective automation house, make sure to do your research before the quoting process begins. This can include in-person visits when possible, or simply visiting the company’s website and doing research on the company itself. The automation house should fit the size and scope of the project. For example, you should understand who you’re dealing with before going after a large-scale custom solution. It is also ideal to have in-person meetings when possible to make sure you have a good personality fit before moving forward with a long-term project. 

3. Incorrectly estimating the cost of an automation project

Manufacturers often underestimate the cost of automation projects. In order to get a solution that really meets your needs, you need to have a realistic budget in mind. To do this, we advise meeting with automation houses before setting your budgets so that you can have a better idea of what is out there and not set yourself up for failure and frustration. You don’t want to end up with a subpar solution that doesn’t serve your needs. This could end up costing you more time and money in the long run. 

4. Not enough technical capability in-house to support the project

You will need staff to support an automation project, through development, installation/integration and after installation. You need to think about what your current in-house capabilities are (or be aware that you’ll be investing a lot on the company’s support, if they provide it). In terms of the end-result, you’ll also need to think about your future support span. If you are unwilling to commit to a larger team long-term, this will have to be part of your plan when designing a solution. 

5. Failure to involve your production and maintenance teams in the process

We have seen this mistake often—not involving the production team when designing an automation solution. You should also be involving your maintenance team. These are the people that are going to help you understand your line’s weaknesses, power requirements, air requirements, space availability, and more, so that you end up with a solution that delivers what you need it to. 

6. Lack of communication with the automation vendor

When taking on a project with an automation house, you need to make sure you have a dedicated person(s) on your team to maintain communication. Even after the order itself takes place, this person needs to be in charge of letting the automation house know if anything changes and keep them updated on any timeline changes, etc. If you just place the order and we don’t hear from your team again until runoff, this can result in problems that mean more wait time to install the proper solution.

7. Accepting the automation equipment from the vendor before it is ready 

You need to make sure the solution is fully formed and working properly during runoff before accepting the equipment. This means having a plan for accurate acceptance testing to ensure your solution meets the requirements. 

8. Failure to supply the vendor with up-to-date drawings and parts within specification

You need to keep your automation house up to date on any changes to drawings or parts. Even a small measurement change can mean a big change in the tooling, design, etc. The automation house needs to know how/when a component is nested, where you seal it, etc. It is best to send the latest drawings by at least 4-6 weeks before runoff date.

9. Failure to design for automation

This can be a fundamental flaw from the beginning of the process. For example, pressing pins into holes using a type of plastic that should have a weld rib on it, etc.—there needs to be some design features in the parts that enhance automation to make the processes simple, easy, and repeatable.

10. Using the wrong technology for your application

When designing your automation solutions, it can be tempting to try to cut costs with the simplest solutions on the market. But it is wise to think about really finding the right technology for your application—and how this solution will let you scale in the future. This might mean more of an investment now, but it will be much more effective. In the end, you will find that you save yourself much more money in the long run by installing the best solution now.
If you are looking to source an automated solution for testing on your manufacturing line, we’d be happy to help! Contact us to learn more. 
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