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Taking your first steps into Industrial Automation?

Written by Jon Young Flores – Group Owner- Agribusiness, Manufacturing, Logistics & Retail.

Industrial automation can improve productivity, lower costs, deliver agile manufacturing and provide a solution to today’s skill shortages, supply chain challenges and economic instability. But it needs careful planning.

Check out our 5 top tips from Matt Griffiths, CEO at Alliance Automation, from Telstra’s podcast series with Adam Spencer, Behind the Mic.

  1. Start Smart.

Matt Griffiths suggests companies “don’t just throw money” at industrial automation but start with their business pain points. “Ask yourself: is there a way to eliminate or alleviate the pain point by building in some level of automation?” he says. Then work with automation experts to understand the technology available.

He also encourages companies to think more broadly about how the return on their investment (ROI) is measured. “It’s not just about monetising your production increase versus operational costs. You’ve got to work out what the ROI is on things like improved safety standards and producing more reliable data to monitor your performance.”

The value of this data also extends to informing product improvements, improving customer satisfaction, and creating supply chain efficiencies. Plus, by starting with a small task companies can obtain a proof of concept to measure and refine before integrating it into an automated process as more manufacturing systems are connected.

  1. Be realistic about technology and timeframes

Rapid technology advancements in automation have created obsolescence, making it hard to adapt some legacy systems that were never designed for automation. But because manufacturers don’t have unlimited budgets to replace them, Griffiths suggests they tackle IT and OT integration where and when they can, rather than waiting to replace legacy systems.

“The earlier you converge with your IT systems and get those processes in place… it allows the obsolescence piece to follow. If you start the other way and you want to replace your obsolescent (technology) before you begin converging, you could be 5 or 10 years behind.”

He also stresses the importance of keeping up to date with an explosion of technological advancement in manufacturing automation. “We’re seeing a lot of projects be changed, the way they run, the way they are delivered, the software, the engineers…the last five years we’re seeing ginormous leaps forward.”

  1. Build a foundation for efficiency

The transformational aspect of intelligent manufacturing is the data that you generate, analyse and use to create efficiencies. Which is why Griffiths recommends starting with a foundation for efficiency to obtain that data.

“If you want quality data, downtime analysis, predictive maintenance you need foundational support from the electrical infrastructure, instrumentation and control systems before you can get to that point. That is the foundation for providing efficiency.”

To do that requires careful planning, expert integration and automation. 

  1. Strengthen security and resiliency

Griffiths points out that converging IT and OT systems provides an opportunity to strengthen security because it “gives you the tools and the management to monitor, prevent and protect your infrastructure.” It’s also an opportunity to review your network security and revisit your resiliency plan.

  1. Skill your team

Keeping your workforce up to date is key to success. That can be from executive team understanding the potential of AI to drive more productive, more predictive manufacturing down to front-line workers switching from operating heavy machinery to overseeing a process and adjusting parameters to suit requirements.

Griffiths explains, “a big part of the industry 4.0 is really re-educating …giving them the skillsets to be able to operate better technology in a different way.” He recommends that companies investigate their skill gaps and invest in upskilling “It’s about training for purpose, on the job, and the automation piece allows us to train people at a faster rate on a larger scale who can then operate technology remotely.”

About Alliance Automation

Alliance Automation is a specialist industrial automation firm that specialises in electrical engineering, control systems, cybersecurity for operational technology, electrical contracting, and end-to-end 4.0 solutions. It is a Telstra Purple Company that forms part of Telstra’s end-to-end Industrial Automation ecosystem combining consultancy from Telstra Purple, Industrial Network Integration from Aqura, Industrial Automation from Alliance Automation and Data Science and AI from Quantium.

Interested to learn more about industrial automation and how you can benefit? Register for The Intelligent Manufacturing Forum in Sydney on March 14, 2024. Spots are limited.

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