Regardless of your role in a manufacturing setting, you likely continually hear about the importance of increasing return on investment, or ROI. Many variables can affect ROI from robotics and automation, but flexible production is undoubtedly a primary factor.
Increased flexibility can help your business be more responsive to customer needs, able to speed up turnaround times, and more. Here’s a look at why you should see a strong connection between flexible systems and ROI.
Meeting customer expectations
You can — and should — devote substantial efforts toward fostering relationships with customers. But if you ultimately can’t meet their needs, clients are likely to sever even a longstanding relationship and look to do business with other entities that have the necessary capabilities.
For instance, Syntegon has a cup-filing machine for yogurts and dips. The Ampack FCL has a modular, height-adjustable dosing system that enables users to achieve faster changeovers when manufacturing several products within a single shift. It can also fill up to 60,000 cups per hour, based on the diameter and volume of the container.
This setup enables companies to meet the needs of clients with various cup-related packaging needs. However, the modular design means that people don’t waste time when switching between products.
Flexible production shakes up pharmaceuticals
Faster drug approvals are driving pharmaceuticals industry leaders to build flexible production facilities that can handle production changeovers happening in days or even hours. Modular systems are often the best choice, as are continuous systems that allow for uninterrupted production.
Flexible production can also help companies avoid waste, which boosts their ROI. Sanofi recently opened a continuous manufacturing facility that cuts water and chemical usage by 91% and 94%, respectively. The brand expects these investments to accelerate drug development and shorten the all-important time-to-market metric.
Continuous manufacturing plants, like the one Sanofi operates, allow using smaller equipment and shrinking the total size of the manufacturing footprint. Then, companies can more quickly cater to requests for new products.
A particularly impressive example of what’s possible in flexible production system is the briefcase-sized Biologic Medications on Demand. It features small chambers that produce hundreds or thousands of doses of multiple drugs in less than in 24 hours. Imagine the link between such flexible systems and ROI. A drug company could come to the site of a medical crisis such as an epidemic and administer drugs with almost no delays.
In a scenario like that, a brand would boost its ROI by responding to a pressing need faster than most competitors can. Besides ramping up its profits, a company could look forward to plenty of favorable attention from the press, as reporters position it as a company that’s ready to handle what could otherwise be an ongoing medical emergency.
Companies are more adaptable with flexible systems
If Amazon had its way, shoppers would never have to leave their homes because they could buy all their necessities from one site. Today, few or no signs point to the fact that the brand started as a bookseller. The so-called Amazon Effect emerged as a top trend a couple of years ago, and it is as prominent as ever.
The New Yorker recently mentioned adaptability as one of the company’s priorities. When it can adjust to changing market conditions or customer sentiments, the brand can keep thriving despite fluctuations.
Japanese automakers prize flexible production because they know it’s not sustainable to devote an entire plant to manufacturing one model. Factors ranging from shifting consumer preferences to foreign trade wars have made Japanese vehicle manufacturers among the best at operating flexible factories.
At one Toyota factory, capacity can increase or decrease without affecting production costs. Any necessary capacity changeovers can happen in a weekend.
Comparatively, U.S. auto plants typically cannot respond to changes so speedily. If something changes and a particular model no longer sells as robustly as before, the affected brands scramble to revamp their production processes. Focusing on flexibility from the start lets companies continuously take advantage of the resultant adaptability.
It’s impossible to predict what on the horizon could negatively affect a company’s ROI. But, making flexibility a priority helps companies be more prepared and stand out from competitors that are not so proactive.
The examples described above offer lessons to manufacturers of all sizes, and robotics is a key part of calculating returns on investment from flexible production. Note that there are other factors to be aware of when determining evaluating automation costs, such as usage.