Automation can be used to achieve efficient and flexible continuous flow of parts. The designing of automation should be done in the right way to get best results. The various levels of automation are discussed below.
Level 1 : Here all the operations for transforming the raw material from loading the part to the machine, operate the machine throughout its entire machine cycle, unloading the finished part from machine and transfer the part to the next machine is done manually by the operator. This is the basic level of automation.
Level 2: In this level, the machine works automatically without any need of operators. Here the operator’s duty is to load the raw material into the machine, unload the finished part from the machine and transfer the finished part. Here the operator needs to use both hands to unload and load the part into the machine.
Level 3: In this level, the machine works automatically and then finished part is automatically gets ejected from the machine after the end of the cycle. So, the machine looks like an empty nest each time the operator returns with the raw material. The raw material can be loaded without having to double-handle both parts.
This level of automation is usually quite inexpensive because great precision is generally not required to eject a part.
Level 4 and Level 5: the capital costs and technical complexity increase dramatically for these levels of automation. Loading parts to the machine requires delicate technologies to automate and transferring parts requires robots or transfer lines.
Generally, Level 3 automation achieves many of the benefits of full automation. But when the demand rises above capacity we need to go for level 4 or 5 of automation. Pursuing Level 4 and 5 is called ‘crossing the great divide’. In some cases it may be required, but it is advised to look very hard at the alternatives first.
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