Engineering – the different advantages and disadvantages of relying on machinery for business
Over the years, modern technology has completely changed the way we do business. No longer do people have to be face to face to have meetings or sign important documents. Instead, contracts and invoices can be sent over the internet. Technology changes so fast and so often, as shown by the rush for businesses to get a fax machine installed merely a few decades ago, just for them to be collecting dust in this millennium. Purchasing any technology can be a huge decision for any business. Buying a new machine for your workshop could cost thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars to purchase. While it may cost a lot initially, it could end up either saving you a lot of money or helping you increase your revenue. Just like every business decision you make, there are both advantages and disadvantages to relying on machinery.
Here’s a look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of using engineering in your business.
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If you need a simple task carrying out hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of times a day, it makes sense to seek out an engineering solution to help complete that task. You could employ several workers to carry out the same tasks, but that would have a huge impact on your wage bill. If they get ill or suddenly decide to leave the job for another position, you could also find your whole production line slows down.
There are many industries that have successfully removed the need for humans to carry out certain tasks. For example, as this article points out, if you were in a bowling alley in the 1950s, you would have had to wait for a pin boy to stand the pins up in the right positions after your opponent’s turn. As well as this costing the business more money, there are a lot of disadvantages for the customer with this method as well. The customer could get annoyed if they take a particularly long time to reset the pins. They could even argue that the pins haven’t been put back in the right place. By swapping to an automated machine, you’re creating a system that can reset the pins in pretty much the exact amount of time, every time. They’re also a lot more likely to put them in the exact same position. That is, of course, unless the machine develops an error.
The problem with machines is they don’t always get everything right. To use the bowling pin analogy, a human pin boy would know exactly what to do if there weren’t ten pins standing up at the end of the alley after a round of bowling. If one had been broken or lost, he’d simply go and find a spare pin from somewhere. Unfortunately, most machinery isn’t able to think like this for itself. While many have sensors to recognize if something is wrong, many basic machines fail to have the functionality to put the problem right again. That’s why if you’re a regular bowler, you’ve probably had to go up to the front desk before to ask one of the members of staff to fix a problem with your lane.
While this technology has removed the need for that pin boy or girl, it has put more responsibility on that staff member at the front desk to make sure the machinery is working correctly all the time. Without that staff member to call upon for help, some of those lanes would simply grind to a halt, meaning your customers can no longer play on them, and you’d be forced to issue a lot of refunds.
For most tasks, you can program machinery to be more accurate than a team of human beings. By removing humans, you’re removing any opportunity for human error to occur. For example, if you’re weighing out ingredients, a human could quite easily misread a reading on a scale or simply forget exactly how much of the ingredient they’re supposed to be weighing out. Different members of staff could also read measurements differently. For example, if something is cutting something to the left of a ruler mark and the other employee is cutting something to the right of a ruler mark, you could be left with two completely different sized pieces when they should be the same. If you manufacture something that relies on precision, this could mean that the overall product doesn’t function correctly once it’s completed.
By introducing digital sensors to complete different tasks, for example, to measure weight, size, or temperature, you’re removing the opportunity for human error. The only problem is on occasion; these sensors could start to develop an error. That’s why it’s so important to have human supervision of these machines’ operation that can regularly check that the weight they weigh or the length they measure, for example, is correct. The simple fact of automation is that if you leave a machine running unsupervised without regularly checking the sensors, they could end up producing hundreds, if not thousands, of products incorrectly before anybody notices.
Although automation could make it easier for you to create a product, it could also make it much easier for someone else to create a product. For example, a few years ago, if you wanted something printed either in high quality or in a big size, you would have entrusted a specialist printing company’s help to complete the job for you. Nowadays, as technology has developed, you can easily buy and run a compact printer from your office to complete this job for you, removing the need to visit a print company. While this is a great way to save money for the business customer, print companies will likely continue to see a drop in revenue as this DIY technology increases in popularity. As more and more people are starting to use 3D printers at home, this could soon have a huge impact on the manufacturing industry as well.