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Automation stepping stones - SME’s jump on the automation bandwagon with Endoline’s simple pointers

8 March 2016

It’s official; SME’s in the UK are on the up with growth and start up business rates returning to pre-crisis levels. Considered the back bone of the economy SME’s contribute a staggering £1.2 trillion to the UK each year.* Now, in the face of a national living wage, coupled with the growth of affordable systems, SME’s are beginning to take a leap of faith into the fast paced world of automation.

According to reports 2016 is set to be the ‘tipping point’ for manufacturing technology, with increasing numbers of companies embracing robotics and automation. While this rise in the manufacturing sector has sparked employment debates, companies are realising the potential to improve output and efficiencies through automation. While job roles will start to shift away from labour intensive repetitive tasks to more intricate roles to optimise manufacturing processes and aid business development. 

While SME’s face the same challenges as large Blue Chip companies; rising raw materials and labour costs, quality concerns and work safety issues, they are more inclined to embrace change and reinvest in their company as, ultimately, their entire livelihood is on the line. That first step into automation is, however, a giant leap and here end of line equipment expert, Endoline Machinery, outlines the steps SME’s should take into automating their production facility for the first time:

Get flexible…….

As a small company you may have to adapt your business several times to meet growing demand, so you may question investing in automation in case the system becomes obsolete within a couple of years. Wrong. Any automation supplier worth their salt will offer an adaptable solution to future proof your investment. Today many machines can be upgraded or retro-fitted with new technology to suit future requirements; many of our systems today have been in situ for almost 30 years and have adapted with the changing demands from our customers. Also portability is important. As you grow you may look to upgrade your premises so make sure that your automated system is easy to move.

Where’s the payback?

For most, if not all SME’s, the return on investment (ROI) figures can be a real deal breaker. However with careful planning, a 12-month ROI is attainable. A well thought out automated system can quickly turn an inefficient labour intensive operation into a cost effective high output production line. Only go for what you need – you don’t necessarily need a system with bells and whistles but look for those that can suit the changing needs of your business. A quality provider of automation will help you calculate the best solution for you based on your existing costs. 

Ease of use…..

Any downtime on production can have a detrimental effect on any business. So with this in mind it’s important to make sure you can install automation easily and be able to program it quickly so your production can run smoothly. If you have to rely on resources outside of your business you run the risk of a gap in production, which can have a direct impact on your profitability so speak to your provider for regular on-site training and support packages.

Become leaner…..

There is much debate around automation and lean but SME’s should put the myths to bed and focus on solutions. Implementing lean into manufacturing environments means that it really is an approach to solving manufacturing problems, and if the best solution to a particular problem involves automation, then that makes automation lean. Ultimately it’s about reducing errors and defects, and error-proofing. Finding the right level of automation can enhance your lean initiatives in previously unconsidered ways, giving you new ways to reduce wasted time, wasted energy, and wasted effort when used in the right applications.

Don’t run before you can walk…

An age old saying but when a company decides to automate they often feel that unless they have thousands of £££’s to spend fully automating their packaging line then they might as well not bother. However as a company we often find ourselves reminding customers that they can build up automation slowly. Look at a way of automation which brings flexibility to suit your growing needs - while lowering the risk level. Rather than replacing your workforce with a fully automated line ease your company into the concept – while keeping labour involved to work on the new, more productive packaging line. 

Use a reputable company…………

If in doubt many people turn to the internet, we have even known first time buyers purchase automation equipment from eBay. However if something goes wrong with that system you will find it difficult to purchase spare parts or find a reputable engineer to fix the problem. Purchase an automated system from a quality supplier, and don’t be put off if they work with bigger companies, chances are they will offer less technical systems for a lower price but for the same quality.

Over 30% of Endoline machinery sales in 2015 came from SME’s, an increase of 10% on previous years and this figure is rising. Ramona Hazan, owner of Ramona’s Kitchen an SME who employs eight people, recently invested in an entry level case erector and case sealer from Endoline. Here she explains the rationale behind her decision to automate: “It was initially scary to make the investment but at the same time important to make that plunge as I realised the efficiencies which could be gained. I am now in a position where I have doubled my capacity and am anticipating a return on my investment within 12 months. Basically it comes down to simple arithmetic and for me it was a no brainer!”

With the intelligence of machines improving vastly now is the time to seriously consider investing in automated systems to make your production more efficient. The minimum wage increase will affect SME’s most keenly however by automated labour intensive tasks they can streamline their workforce and employ people to work on growing the business. Couple this with the fact that from January 1st the Annual Investment Allowance was set at £200k – where SME’s can make tax deductible investments on automation – and it’s not a case of if you decide to automate but when.

*The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills

For more information, please contact:

Endoline Machinery Ltd
Tel:  +44 1767 316422
Fax:  +44 1767 318033
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