New members of the metals fabrication industry are being trained across the globe on the processes used to create metal structures in all shapes and forms. They learn that this can be done by cutting, bending and assembling the metal via many different processes, such as welding, machining and forming. These new workers are learning the process of metal fabrication for various types of materials in a variety of applications, including building construction, oil and gas projects, and automotive manufacturing.
In today’s metal shops, fabrication work is being led by automation, so it’s equally important to train new employees about why automation is important for the work they’re doing and how it’s changing the metal fabrication industry for the better.
While the leadership at most fab shops understands the benefits that come from adopting automation, new employees might be curious as to why metal fabrication looks different from what they might have originally thought. Educating them should go beyond just how to operate a machine or lay down a weld. The more lines of communication that are open, the more productive these employees will be.
With that said, here are six ways automation is changing metal fabrication and how to relay that to new employees.
1. Improving efficiency
Using automation in metal fabrication offers workers many benefits, such as improved efficiency and productivity.
One of the biggest advantages of automation is that it can help speed up production processes. For instance, CNC machines have various aspects that are all automated. The part is designed using 3-D software. Then, various codes (G-code, M-code) tell the machine what work to perform on the product in a fast and simple format. Further, CNC machines automate various processes, such as turning, grinding and drilling. This can lead to increased output and shorter production times.
In addition, automated systems can often work more accurately than human workers, which can lead to improved product quality. By automating various tasks in the metal fabrication process, manufacturers are able to produce products with greater precision and accuracy. This means customers are able to consistently get products that meet their specific needs and requirements. And when customers are happy, manufacturers are more profitable, which provides better job security for all involved. This is a talking point that new employees should hear – investments in automation ultimately help to make metal fabrication a more efficient and productive process.
2. Reducing fatigue
Using automation in metal fabrication has long been said to help reduce the amount of human labor needed. This, in turn, reduces the amount of fatigue that workers experience on the job. While there are many benefits to using automation in this industry, reducing worker fatigue is one of the most important. This would be music to any new employee’s ears.
There are several reasons why automation reduces worker fatigue in metal fabrication. First, it eliminates the need for workers to perform repetitive tasks. This can be a major source of fatigue, as performing the same task over and over can be both physically and mentally draining.
Another area where automation has a major impact is in material handling. The use of robots and other automated systems for moving and manipulating materials can help reduce errors and improve productivity.
A bonus for automating material handling is that it often allows workers to take on more challenging and interesting tasks, which can help to keep them engaged and motivated. By reducing the amount of time that workers spend on the job, automation provides them more time to rest and recover from the physically demanding tasks they do perform. Not only should this message be relayed to new employees, it should be a promise that employers keep.
3. Improving consistency
As the metal fabrication industry continues to evolve, so too does the automation that supports it. For fabricators, this means increased consistency in their operations.
One area where this is particularly true is in robotic welding. The use of robotic welders helps improve consistency by making the 50th weld the same as the first. Fatigue isn’t in a robot’s lexicon. The robots also only have to be programmed once, meaning the chance for any inconsistencies is incredibly small.
Compared to manual labor, automated processes produce much better consistency. This is not an insult to anyone’s ability to manually lay down the same beads day after day; it’s just a fact of human life. Fatigue is a human trait, not a robotic one.
4. Providing access to better data
One of the most important aspects of metal fabrication is having accurate data with which to work. And it should come as no surprise to hear that automated systems come with a lot of baked-in data collection capabilities.
This data can be used to help ensure that products are made correctly and efficiently and can also be used to identify bottlenecks and resolve them. In the past, manually gathering and inputting this data was often error-prone and time-consuming. This is because workers had to manually enter and update data records. With this approach, the chance of errors also remains high. Therefore, automated data collection helps save time and hassle in this regard.
By automating the process of data collection and input, metal fabrication businesses can improve the accuracy of their data while also freeing up time for other tasks. This can ultimately lead to better decision making and more efficient operations.
When relaying the benefits of automated data collection to new employees, they will inevitably be relieved to hear that there is no need for pencils or erasers in their positions.
5. Enhancing safety
Since the early days of metal fabrication, workers have been exposed to potential safety hazards. From cuts and lacerations to burns and explosions, there are a number of risks associated with this type of work. However, thanks to automation, many of these risks are now minimized.
Automation plays a key role in enhancing safety in metal fabrication. For example, by automating tasks such as welding and cutting, workers aren’t required to be as close to the work taking place and, therefore, are less likely to be injured by sparks or flames. The same holds true for automating the handling and transport of materials versus manual material handling. This is task that can expose workers to injury by heavy objects or sharp edges.
Overall, automation has helped to make metal fabrication a much safer process. With fewer workplace injuries and fatalities, workers can focus on producing quality products rather than worrying about their safety. As a result, companies that invest in automation can enjoy higher productivity and profitability.
6. Adding flexibility
In the metal fabrication industry, automation has brought a lot of flexibility. It has allowed companies to be able to produce a wider range of products with fewer defects and in less time. This new-found efficiency helps them to be more responsive to customer needs and changes in the market.
Automation has enabled this by taking over some of the tasks that are traditionally done by workers, such as welding, cutting and machining. This allows companies to produce products more quickly and at a lower cost. It also allows companies to turn on a dime when a customer asks them for a last-minute order addition or change.
While automation has led to the development of new technologies and supporting technologies, it also helps companies to develop new in-house processes and strategies to tackle any work that is thrown at them. The flexibility that is afforded to fabricators that embrace automation is perhaps one of the biggest benefits.
These are the ways automation is actually changing the metal fabrication industry. As of now, it definitely has many benefits. The added flexibility and the way automation is improving the safety standards is something to watch. Automation is definitely the future of this industry. For many, it might be the right time to opt-in to using automation before it is too late.