To gain an edge, manufacturers in a range of market segments are upgrading from manual inspection to automated inspection processes. Compared to legacy, manual processes that are often costly, time-consuming, and inconsistent, automated inspections are:
Vision systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and edge computing find defects and immediately flag them for management, which accelerates the inspection process and allows for greater inspection throughput. In addition, with automated inspections performing repetitive tasks, employees have more time to perform higher-value jobs, making the entire post-production process faster and more efficient. Finally, in contrast to legacy systems, new inspection systems are quick to set up and can be installed for the first time or later repurposed around a facility in a matter of hours, not weeks.
More Accurate Than Manual
Vision systems perform tasks the same way, every time. They are consistent and won’t be influenced by a manager pushing a team to complete an order. AI can find even the smallest flaws, spot new defects with anomaly detection, and evaluate items against extremely tight tolerances.
A Source of Valuable Data
Automated inspection systems collect and store data that enables root cause analysis and identifies trends that impact product quality. Inspection robots can also provide traceability throughout the production process and, when needed, an audit trail that can settle disputes with clients or minimize waste in the event of a recall. Automated inspection systems also make data available to a manufacturer’s team in real-time and enable them to access reports via the cloud anytime, anywhere.
Transitioning to Automated Inspections
As with any change to a manufacturing process, implementing automated inspection takes strategy, planning, and the right investments to be successful. Businesses committed to increasing efficiency, productivity, and product quality through automated inspection processes need to address these areas to maximize value.
The first step that a business needs to take to lay the groundwork for successful automated inspection processes may be to dispel the myth that inspection systems will replace employees. It’s important to clearly communicate to the quality control/quality assurance inspectors and the team as a whole, that the goal of the inspection system is to make their jobs faster, easier and less physically straining, not to replace them. With increased demand for manufactured goods, employers are straining to find enough talent to inspect everything that comes off of their production lines. An AI vision system can alleviate this pressure, while also providing near 100% inspection of parts produced.
Automated inspection systems also reduce the need for inspectors to perform data entry and record keeping. They produce a historical record of inspection outcomes that can lead to more effective inspection processes and improved production processes throughout their operation.
Forward-thinking manufacturers will leverage vision systems to perform repetitive tasks, so skilled employees can focus on inputting reusable data to train the inspection algorithms and other higher-value jobs, such as finding long-term solutions to recurring defects.
In the end, an automated inspection system’s impact on a manufacturer’s workforce could result in increased production, due to higher quality and increased customer satisfaction, and more, not fewer, jobs as well as higher employee satisfaction.
Justify the Investment
Any technology investment will require justification to the CFO and other company leadership. The argument to invest in a vision system is an easy one, considering the cost savings that will result from decreased waste, and rework, as well as the potential for new revenue from a higher rate of production and greater customer satisfaction. It’s not unheard of for ROI calculations for automated inspection systems to show a return in weeks or months rather than years.
Furthermore, AI-powered inspection systems are far less expensive to deploy and redeploy than legacy machine vision inspection systems, reducing setup costs, and keeping the total cost of ownership (TCO) low.
Automate to Stay Competitive
Current growth in the visual inspection market suggests that automated inspections will be necessary for manufacturers to stay competitive. Operations that move forward using manual inspection processes won’t be able to keep up with those that can perform comprehensive inspections more efficiently and more consistently, delivering products to market faster with minimal instances of defects.
Vision systems, particularly those powered by AI, can provide substantial benefits to your quality control/quality assurance processes and your operation as a whole through lower costs, analysis that leads to continuous operational improvements, and a higher degree of customer satisfaction. With the right automated inspection technology and the right strategy, those business goals are within reach.
At Elementary, we saw the opportunity to build a new generation of vision platform from the ground up to operate based on computer vision input and AI rather than rigid programming. Our team brings a wealth of experience from a variety of industries and backgrounds, including augmented reality, smart security cameras, aerospace, research, and design. Together, we’re combining our talents to create mission-critical automation products.