Assembly machines and robotic technology contribute significantly to the appliance manufacturing industry. They’re highly effective in smaller assembly applications, putting together household appliances like toasters, irons, or vacuum cleaners. However, for companies that manufacture high volumes of large white goods like clothes washers or refrigerators, in many cases, robots currently handle only those tasks that aren’t part of the assembly process, like stamping, machining, painting, and product testing.
As the market continues to evolve with innovations in automation technology, furthering robotics integration into the appliance industry’s assembly lines for large appliances is the logical next step. Appliance manufacturers can achieve an optimal return on their investment with faster, more accurate, and highly efficient production processes that provide the benefits of operational flexibility and decreased costs.
Appliance manufacturers have to consider automation when designing new products to make its use favorable. This concept means including features in the different components that make it easy for an automatic system to orient them and assemble them into the product, taking into account that the robot will always make the same trajectory and movements and doesn’t have the capability to make small tweaks or process modifications to force an assembly to happen. Manufacturers have to update the design of the appliance to make full use of the capabilities that an automatic system can provide instead of trying to have robots do the tasks that humans do or are good at doing.
Growing Demand for Automation in Appliance Manufacturing
After the automobile industry, the appliance manufacturing sector comes in as the second-most automated industry worldwide. From toasters to refrigerators, appliances all utilize complex electrical components that manufacturers must carefully assemble, welding them on the production line. Robotic automation allows manufacturers to achieve significant savings in appliance production time as compared to manual processes.
Boston Consulting Group Inc. (BCG) found in 2015 that robots completed a mere 10% or so of tasks in manufacturing operations. However, the same study anticipated an increase to 25% by 2025, with the largest growth projected in the appliance and electrical equipment industries. BCG reasoned that the high wages for human workers in these sectors and the abundance of tasks into which manufacturers can easily incorporate automation would hasten global robotics adoption in these fields.
Benefits of Automation in Appliance Manufacturing
In a world where automation is becoming the norm, it’s important to understand how the appliance manufacturing industry can capitalize on its benefits. Compared to manual operations, automation offers superior:
- Precision. Automation allows companies to increase accuracy within their assembly applications for greater uniformity and repeatability. Robotic technology reduces or eliminates the risk of human error, producing higher-quality products for your market.
- Speed. Automation increases production speeds, efficiency, and throughput without having to sacrifice quality in large appliances like refrigerators, stoves, washers, and dryers. It positions manufacturers to be successful and keep up with businesses while operating in a highly competitive market.
- Flexible, scalable operations. Manufacturers can quickly adapt robotic technology to production changes, like an altered design or product modification, without necessitating a revision to the actual assembly line. Also, the enhanced productivity allows manufacturers to scale their operations as needed.
- Integration capabilities. The ease with which manufacturers can incorporate turnkey automation solutions into their current operations and machinery allows them to seamlessly automate complex processes that would otherwise cost them in greater time and labor investments.
- Adherence to industry/regional quality standards. Automation in appliance manufacturing boosts compliance capabilities as the equipment will assemble all appliance parts and equipment per the highest quality standards to meet industry or regional requirements.
Improvements in Automation
Robots are becoming smarter and more beneficial than ever in appliance manufacturing. BCG projected in 2015 that robotic systems’ improvements in flexibility, production speed, and related advantages would continue at a rate of approximately 5% per year. This versatile, highly networked technology is already utilizing advancements like gripping systems and vision sensors to improve and expedite processes.
While the initial investment for automated equipment has traditionally been more cost prohibitive than that of human labor, continuous innovations in information technology and robotics, along with the resulting improvements in assembly line performance and product pricing, will eventually lead to automated practices being the more cost-effective of the two. Incorporating automation now will help appliance manufacturers gain a competitive advantage before 100%-automated assembly lines become fully mainstream in the industry.
Including robots in assembly lines is one option for automation in the appliance industry, but manufacturers can automate many other processes as well, like punching or drilling holes in cabinets, clinching or riveting components, making functional testing, etc.
Contact AMD for Appliance Manufacturing Automation Solutions
Automation increases efficiency, speed, and high-quality product throughput, greatly enhancing the manufacturing process for large appliances. At Advanced Manufacturing Development (AMD), our domestic and international teams of experienced engineers and technicians can assist you in integrating automation solutions into your manufacturing lines. With a focus on design, performance, quality, and budget, we offer fully automated equipment, high-speed stations, and assembly lines capable of producing up to 100 ppm to revolutionize your operation.