Page 9 - Food & Drink Business Magazine March 2019
P. 9

The art of automating
There are right ways and wrong ways to automate your plant, and it all comes back to forming strong relationships, writes local consultant and coach Greg Sale.
MOST manufacturers in Australia are very aware of the need for automation, and my observations are that many have been automating their process for some time and know the benefits. Others start on the journey but don’t follow the plan for a number of reasons. At this point, some companies abandon it, or worse, think automation is for large multinational companies, and they are too small and can’t afford it.
The key to success is implementing the right sort of automation for your plant and this depends on what you are making, your current and projected future output, your long term goals, and your location.
A few important steps will ensure that you don’t get the wrong type of automation for your plant, and the first is to align with the right automation integrator.
It's highly unlikely that a Google search for 'Automation Integrators' will get you a provider you can trust with this investment in the future of your manufacturing, and that’s possibly one of the reasons manufacturers have had a poor experience with automation.
In food and beverage manufacturing this can be even more risky, because of the highly specialised knowledge required in this industry, compared with the rest of the manufacturing sector. After an online search, many companies go down the traditional ‘three quotes’ path, and from there try to work out who to choose, as price is the item they best understand, but this approach can lead to the wrong type of automation or poorly executed automation.
This is where getting the right automation partner up front can help, and that is because the right partner will push back if
you look to be heading down the wrong path. They may tell their prospective new partner they are looking at the wrong part of the plant, and work with them on getting the scope right. They will have the right type of engineers, tradespeople, technology building blocks, and offer ongoing support. The right partner is someone you trust and can build a relationship with.
This relationship is the type often seen with the
cost of automation can be once they focus on the right part of the plant with the right integrator.
Additionally, with the right partner, they can discuss things openly, such as the reasoning behind the price, scope splitting opportunities, or the potential to stagger or stage introduction of the automation. This type of relationship allows for more discussion, rather than a race to offer the most scope for the lowest price.
Government officials who look at funding requests have little knowledge about your business, so they use formulas for approval and rejection. The sourcing professionals know these formulas and apply them, and often know about more available funding than the rest of us can find on government websites. Their job is to help you get some of the billions of dollars available in government grants. The right professional takes their cut, certainly, however the chances of securing the right grants is greatly increased with their help.
With over 30 years of hands-on experience in the local manufacturing sector, I’ve seen a lot of good automation, but sadly I’ve also seen companies not using the most appropriate integrator to their needs.
I’ve seen many cases where the lowest bid was accepted, and the project resulted in disagreements, and sometimes even legal action, and often it was not the fault of the manufacturer or the integrator – it was lack of communication because of a poor relationship.
When it’s done well, I’ve
seen countless companies survive, grow and export. To debunk one last myth, these companies often go on to employ far more staff than they did prior to automation, because their business has grownsomuch. ✷
“ Once that relationship is established, the need for three quotes disappears because the automation provider becomes part of business.”
manufacturers who have a history of success and an ongoing commitment to automation – but it probably took a few goes to get it right.
Once that relationship is established, the need for three quotes disappears because the automation provider becomes part of the business – a genuine partner in their shared success. It is possible to give the right advice and best price because their cost of sale has gone down, and it’s in their interest to remain part of the team.
Moreover, in many instances, the right price is not always the lowest price. The right price is one that fits in the original budget and scope originally agreed upon. In other words, you get the correct part of the plant automated, with equipment that meets the objective you set out to achieve with your automation partner.
All of this is also true for companies that have not automated because they did not consider themselves large enough. These companies are often surprised at how low the
Then there are finances to consider. Most manufacturers look at the cost of automation, and then the return on investment based on “paying cash” as the saying goes. In many cases, this method of funding an automation project delays or kills off what could have been the right automation at the right time.
Often, leasing the equipment gives a manufacturer a return on the investment from the moment it starts to work, not after one or two years. With this model you do pay interest, but if the equipment costs much less per hour based on repayments, then the ROI is immediate.
When it comes to financing, with all due respect to banks, they are not the place to look for funding automation investment, and with regards to government funding, there are some factors to consider. Many businesses apply for their own funding because they don’t want the professionals who specialise in funding to take a cut, but this quite often leads to a funding request being rejected.
Greg Sale is the founder
of consulting and
coaching firm
Technology and
Marketing (MT&M), and
is the former CEO of KUKA Robotics. He has also held senior positions with other multinationals including ABB and Lend Lease. Contact him at info@ | March 2019 | Food&Drink business | 9

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