advantage, type, cost, Types of automation
Automation of operations may encompass the automation of a single operation or the automation of an entire factory. For small business owners, weighing the pros and cons of automation can be a daunting task. TYPES OF AUTOMATION. Although automation can play a major role in increasing productivity and reducing costs in service industries-as in the example of a retail store that installs bar code scanners in its checkout lanes-automation is most prevalent in manufacturing industries. In recent years, the manufacturing field has witnessed the development of major automation alternatives. Information technology Computer-aided manufacturing Numerically controlled equipment Robots Flexible manufacturing systems Computer integrated manufacturing. Group technology is a manufacturing philosophy that aims at grouping different products and creating different manufacturing cells for the manufacture of each group. Flexible manufacturing systems are comprehensive systems that may include numerically controlled machine tools, robots, and automated material handling systems in the manufacture of similar products or components using different routings among the machines. A computer-integrated manufacturing system is one in which many manufacturing functions are linked through an integrated computer network. AUTOMATION AND THE SMALL BUSINESS OWNER. Understanding and making use of automation-oriented strategic alternatives is essential for manufacturing firms of all shapes and sizes. “The computer, in its hardened and non-hardened forms, has made it possible to control manufacturing more precisely and to assemble more quickly, factors which have increased competition and forced companies to move faster in today’s market,” wrote Leslie C. Jasany in Automation. “But now, with the aid of the computer, companies will have to move to the next logical step in automation-the automatic analysis of data into information which empowers employees to immediately use that information to control and run the factory as if they were running their own business.” Indeed, industry analyst Scott Flaig proclaimed to Jasany that “Automation of information is clearly where the opportunity is, not in automation of labor. The work that is being done now in advanced manufacturing is work to manage and control the process, not the automation of the added-value aspect of the process.” An essential key to automation success for small business owners is to establish a quality education program for employees, and to set up a framework in which workers can provide input on the positive and negative aspects of new automation technology. MANAGEMENT PHILOSOPHY Many productive business automation systems, whether in the realm of manufacturing or data processing, call for a high degree of decision-making responsibility on the part of those who operate the systems. Budgeting for automation costs can be complex as well, but as with tax matters, business owners are encouraged to educate themselves. Once new automation systems are in operation, business owners and managers should closely monitor financial performance for clues about their impact on operations.
Home Automation Goes Wide As Discounters Join In
NEW YORK – Connectivity and home-automation are taking another giant step toward mass-market adoption this holiday season as Walmart, Sears and Target take aim at the nascent category. Following big-box pioneers Lowe’s, Home Depot and Staples, the latest chain-store triumvirate is entering the category to varying degrees, with Target testing the waters, Sears rebuilding its CE business around it, and Walmart going whole-hog with a 1,700-store rollout this month. The chains also join Best Buy, which is rolling out hundred-item Connected Home sections to 400 stores this fall, and Amazon.com, which launched a home-automation department last year. Walmart’s plan is to present 10 to 20 home-automation products on connected-home displays within its stores’ electronics departments. The tightly curated assortment will include The Home line of security cameras from iON America, and Insteon’s collection of kits, motion sensors, LED bulbs, cameras and dimmer switches. “Our presence in Walmart stores marks the arrival of mainstream adoption of connected home devices,” Insteon CEO Joe Dada said. In contrast, Sears is taking connectivity to a whole new level by making it the centerpiece of its CE business. Under the plan, TV, along with other smart or connected devices like tablets and Bluetooth speakers and headphones, will be become part of a broader connected-solutions platform, explained Ryan Ciovaco, Sears’ president of connected solutions and consumer electronics. “We are shifting the focus of our electronics business away from simply selling traditional electronics products into one that leverages both the industry growth area of smart technology and Sears’ existing capabilities in fitness, appliances, electronics and home services,” he told TWICE in an email. “This repositioning of electronics into connected solutions will focus on innovative products and target busy families and people on the go, providing them with an opportunity to discover how smart technology can improve their life.” Ciovaco said Sears will introduce smart and wearable products to about 200 Sears stores this quarter, and has created a connected solutions “Holiday Hot List” online featuring such brands as Belkin, D-Link, Fitbit, Jawbone and Insteon. The move comes amid continuing CE comp-sale declines for Sears and sister chain Kmart, and follows the rollout earlier this year of prototype connected-home shops within several Sears stores. The shops carry a tightly edited selection of smart, connected- home and personal-automation devices across the CE, fitness, automotive, home and mobile categories. Target is trialing home-automation products in about 500 of its approximately 1,800 stores. Items being tested include lighting, thermostats, smoke alarms and door locks, a Target spokesperson told TWICE. Online, the retailer has organized its home automation assortment under a dedicated “Smart Home” landing page that breaks out the category into thermostat, security, lighting, fitness, home control, entertainment and networking products.