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Manual or automated? – How to choose the right type of assembly for your production needs

Are you looking to improve the efficiency and quality of your production processes? If so, one of the most critical decisions is choosing the type of assembly you will use to join the pieces of your products.

Assembly is a process by which a specialized company combines components to generate a specific result. Agents dedicated to assembly and subassembly produce distinct sets of features. Each element in this industry needs characteristic technical processes that are only sometimes available in all factories.

In this article, we will explain the main types of assembly: permanent, semi-permanent, and non-permanent, and how to choose the most suitable for your production needs.

The Type of Assembly -Manual Versus Automated Assembly

The manual assembly is one in which the human hand intervenes directly in the union of the pieces. Automated assembly is one in which a machine or robot is used to operate.

Both types have their advantages and disadvantages, which depend on various factors such as cost, efficiency, accuracy, quality, flexibility, and scalability. Next, you will find some of the main characteristics of each type of assembly:

· Costs

Manual assembly does not require an investment in machinery or specialized software. Therefore, the initial investment is lower. However, this option requires more people to run the assembly line, hence the higher wage costs.

Automated assembly has a higher initial cost due to acquiring and installing the necessary equipment and systems. In the long run, the prices are reduced because it works with less staff. However, the equipment needs maintenance and repair frequently, so other expenses will appear.

·       Efficiency

 The human factor in manual assembly implies a high level of variability. The operators’ physical and psychological conditions determine the assembly line’s efficiency. Still, a factory can generate excellent results with an experienced team and sound conditions. An example is the guitar factories that still resort to manual assembly.

On the other hand, the automated assembly stands out for the precision and speed of the machines. The assembly line results will be excellent if the system is optimized and working to the maximum. Automated factories will give better results if uniform and massive results are sought.

·       Precision

Manual assembly depends on the skill and conditions of the workers. Attention, fatigue, and distraction are elements that can decrease accuracy. For this reason, the assembler must organize adequate and manageable working hours and station rotation plans to produce the best possible results.

In contrast, machines do not suffer from this variability, so automated assembly generates highly accurate results. In addition, some machines can supervise and keep track of the components created. However, there are details that the devices will be unable to perceive. An experienced operator with keen senses can provide excellent results.

·       Quality

The quality is subject to the expected result after the assembly process. In some cases, such as musical instruments, the rate can be higher in a manual assembly. Human variability can conclude in a superior product due to the particularity and identity of the artisan. However, this premium quality is only sometimes replicable.

Automated assembly, by contrast, can generate consistent results. If you are looking for a specific quality and the machines can replicate it, you can maintain that standard. In this sense, everything depends on the product you want to produce and the scale on which you wish to reproduce it.

·       Flexibility

Hand assembly can more easily adapt to changes in product design and market conditions. Workers can change assemblies based on directions and tools available in the assembly shop or factory.

On the other hand, automated assembly requires more planning and preparation to make changes to the product design. Automated systems must be reprogrammed to modify processes and new specifications. Also, these assembly lines need test sessions.

·       Scalability

A manual assembly line depends on the productive capacity of the workers. To increase the number of finished products daily, the factory needs the operators to work more hours or more workers. It can only scale if the factory hires more workers or pays overtime.

An automated line depends on the machines’ capacity and the space’s physical limits. The costs to produce overtime or a larger quantity of products are less. In that sense, the automated assembly can scale more quickly.

As can be seen, each type of assembly has its advantages and disadvantages, so there is no single answer to choose the most appropriate for each case. On the other hand, factories tend to mix the two types of assembly depending on the expected result. In addition, the operators of the automatic devices also assume a relevant role in the process.

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How to choose a type of assembly between manual and automated

Choosing between manual and automatic assembly is challenging since it involves considering a series of factors that can influence the success or failure of production. There is no single solution that adapts to all situations, but each company must evaluate its characteristics and needs, which vary according to:

·       Production quantity

·       Product Complexity

·       Size of the company

·       Output

·       Process flexibility and scalability

It is advisable to conduct a detailed analysis of each case, considering the strategic objectives, product characteristics, market conditions, and available resources. This way, choosing between the manual and automated assembly with greater criteria and confidence will be possible.

Seek alliances to optimize the assembly process

One significant challenge for manufacturers is optimizing their assembly and subassembly processes. Organizations must seek alliances and establish specialized production centers to achieve the best results. In this way, they manage to reduce costs and scale the business.

Check out the AMN Quality Solutions services if you are looking for organizations to make production more efficient. They will be in charge of finding the alliances that most benefit your organization. With their advice, you can find the best allies to optimize results.

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