Text B. Planning and Justifying Factory Automation Systems

1. Read and translate the text:

The systems approach to factory automation is undoubtedly the best way to achieve quality, productivity, and financial justification goals. But technology alone is not the answer. Manufacturing managers and production engineers must avoid looking at each piece of equipment in isolation from the rest of the manufacturing process.

The key to success is the fitting the technologies together with appropriate management disciplines, inventory disciplines, and process disciplines, which leads to making the total payback greater than the sum of the parts. Thus, manufacturing problems must be looked at as integrated problems not as isolated problems that can be solved simply by attacking them with technology. And integrated problems require integrated solutions.

It is impossible to overemphasize the fact that successful factory automation implementation begins with a well-thought out long-range manufacturing strategy. And this strategic planning must be driven from the top down. Before the strategic planning can begin top management has to first set down the performance goals which the enterprise will be expected to achieve.

Automation technology will require, in many cases, a whole new way of thinking, of planning, of operating, of allocating funds, and of managing human resources. And the need for this kind of self-examination is often not recognized in the normal interplay between top management and the people that have to do the actual implementation. A corollary to this is the need for close interpersonal communication.

The issue of closer relationships between suppliers and users is also becoming more important. For example, in the area of flexible manufacturing systems, new levels of communication and cooperation between the supplier and the user, and an unprecedented level of exposure to the user's business plan for the long term, are required to gain the greatest benefits from the substantial investments represented by the systems. In these co-destiny relationships, the supplier essentially becomes a part of the user's business plan, because one goal of the business plan is having the right parts produced in the correct quantities at exactly the times they are needed.

FMS and other factory automation investments are not tactical decisions with short-term implications. They are strategic decisions, with far-reaching competitive implications. Factory automation provides permanent long-term savings plus numerous intangible benefits including higher quality products, shorter production runs, increased worker satisfaction, and greater manufacturing flexibility.

Factory automation affects three major elements of the business: engineering, manufacturing, and information systems. In the engineering operation, quality and producibility are designed into the product. In the manufacturing process, quality is built into the product, and the efforts to simplify product design pay off in lower manufacturing costs. And information systems permit the quality of the products and the flow of production to be monitored and controlled in real time.

To fully comprehend the financial implications of investing inflexible, programmable manufacturing technologies, it is necessary to consider the three major elements of the factory engineering, manufacturing, and information systems, as an inseparable, integrated whole.


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