Consequences of Avoiding Automation
If you’ve heard the buzz around utilizing automation for your business, you may be wondering if it’s actually worth the investment. After all, it can be hard to justify that kind of purchase without knowing why you need it in the first place. Some businesses may choose to keep going with manual labor alone, but automation is continuing to become more commonplace in many industries. The reality is that increasing labor shortages have forced bakery and food manufacturers to integrate automation into their production lines, whether they previously considered it or not. In other words, automation is quickly becoming essential for companies to keep up with their competition, or even just stay in business. In contrast, if a company solely relies on manual labour for results, it can lead to a variety of consequences, including unproductive labour costs, inconsistent product quality, and a lack of growth potential, which can all damage a company’s bottom line.
If you’re not utilizing automation in your business processes, one of the key drawbacks is the cost of unproductive, and sometimes unpredictable, labor. Although a fully staffed production team can maintain a competitive work-pace alongside automation, humans generally do work slower than machines; however, this is only part of the equation. It is the everyday distractions that interrupt your daily production flow.
The smaller aspects of the employee lifestyle can lead to a lot of wasted time. Think about all the times your employees have paused their work to gossip, walked from one station to the next to perform a non-value-added task, gone to the washroom to scroll through their phone, or took unscheduled breaks in general. Even though these situations are small by themselves, they add up to a lot of wasted hours in the long run that you still have to pay for.
Workplace injuries such as repetitive strain will ultimately affect your bottom-line costs as well, both directly and indirectly. As more injury claims are reported, eventually your WorkSafe or OSHA premium will go up. This also increases your odds of having your safety plans audited, which could result in a costly order to improve your safety standards. In addition, workplace injuries may cause you to lose an employee, which requires you to either replace that employee or place an additional workload onto your current production team, making them overwhelmed and even more vulnerable to injuries.
With automation, machines don’t need lunch breaks, get hurt, open a claim, take time off work, show up late and they work at a consistent level of productivity without the common distractions.
An additional benefit of automation is that unlike human workers, machines work overtime without costing money on overtime wages. Once your machine is set up, you can have it running for as long as you’d like without worrying about excess labor costs. Overall, if you’re not utilizing automation systems in your business, you may continue to suffer from inefficient labor costs instead.
Inconsistent Product Quality
Another consequence of manual labour is the risk of inconsistent product quality. Skilled laborers are very good at what they do; however, even though very specific parameters are put into place, it’s almost impossible to be as consistent as automation. After all, with automation, you are removing any potential of accidental human error.
There are two immediate downsides to consider when talking about product inconsistency. Whether it’s the amount of icing on a cake, the filling in a donut, or the amount of sugar sprinkles on top of a cupcake, one of the biggest reasons for customer loyalty is that they can trust your brand to be consistent with their expectations. When your products become consistently inconsistent, you risk losing your loyal paying customers and any glowing reviews that could have gained you additional customers.
Another (not so) hidden cost associated with inconsistency is ingredient costs. Simply put, it’s much easier to calculate and control the cost of finished goods with a specific parameter that never changes, such as the portion icing on a cupcake.
After an automation system is initially set up to match your needs, this same level of accuracy and precision can be applied to all your products, every single time. For example, with the Apex Motion Control Deco-Bot, it can replicate any decorating design you choose, and after it’s successfully calibrated, it will perform this task consistently day in and day out.
Lack of Flexibility and Growth Potential
Modern times require manufacturers of all kinds to be flexible enough that they can quickly adapt on the fly for new product requests. Having a large team of manual labor requires that every time you need to “switch it up”, you will need to train the entire team. Without any automated production systems in place, you may be limiting your growth potential by not being able to take on new orders for new products.
For example, if you get an extremely large order from a new potential client, you may have to reject the order if you don’t have enough skilled laborers nor the resources to train these laborers. In other words, if your business solely uses manual labour, you may not be able to keep up with any unexpected increases in demand. In contrast, automation has the ability to be flexible, and as your business grows, automation can grow alongside you as well.
Companies that experience seasonal spikes in demand suffer from a similar concern as well. During seasons of high demand, companies typically attempt to hire new employees on a temporary basis to help cover this demand. However, this results in significant training costs every year, and for industries with labor shortages, this seasonal recruitment strategy is not sustainable given our new labor issues.
Automation provides businesses with the opportunity to become adaptable to sudden changes in demand — it’s always available to accommodate seasonal spikes or unexpected large orders from new customers. During times of increased demand, machines work overtime without adding additional hourly labor costs. Automation also replaces the need to train seasonal workers.
Automation is necessary for most modern food and bakery production facilities. It provides you with consistent throughput, flexibility, and the opportunity to grow with you as your business grows as well.
While automation will never fully replace some of the human elements in bakery and food production, when integrated safely it becomes the perfect complement to your production floor.
If you’d like to learn more about how automation can help your business, Apex Motion Control has in-house experts available to talk about your business needs. With Apex’s help, you can discover an automation solution that works best for you, such as our Baker-Bot, to improve productivity and food safety. Contact our cobot experts today through our contact page.