Automation And The Finishing Industry

Metal Finishing Automation

Plating automation is a hot topic in the finishing industry. Many American companies, including Sharretts Plating, are moving towards automated facilities. In fact, Sharretts Plating is mostly automated at this point and thrives to eventually eliminate all manual processes in the future. The move has a significant impact on the industry as a whole, affecting employment, productivity and the ability to compete globally.

What Is Plating Automation?

Plating automation is simply the process of using specialized machinery and equipment to perform the various procedures in the electroplating application. Plating automation requires less human intervention than traditional manual plating processes.

Key plating automation benefits include faster job processing times, fewer production errors and defects, and reduced labor costs. Perhaps the most important benefit of plating automation is that it can ultimately lead to increased profitability.

How Does Plating Automation Work?

Automation has made significant strides in recent years and continues to evolve. Modern plating automation processes rely on state-of-the-art PLC controllers that manage and control every phase of the production process. Highly advanced computer hardware and software are used for job tracking, scheduling, data management and report generation. Automation is compatible with both rack plating and barrel plating process and with just about any type of metal.

International Competition

Automation is vital if the U.S. finishing industry wants to compete at an international level. The sheer amount of cheap manpower available to Chinese finishers allows them to produce large volumes of product. Recent years have seen an increase in wages in China, causing a shift within the industry to automation.

Automated factories increase production speed. Chinese finishing facilities are generally larger than their U.S. counterparts, where smaller companies are the rule. U.S. automation is necessary for continued competitiveness.

The global situation isn’t entirely stacked against U.S. finishing companies. China’s facilities may be larger, but the Chinese industry generally focuses on mass production of cheap, relatively low quality plating products, such as those used in consumer electronics.

The U.S. industry, in contrast, tends to serve more specialized fields, including medical equipment, aerospace technology and the military. As long as the U.S. customizes new automation lines to best serve these industries, we’ll continue to compete effectively against the Chinese. However, complacency isn’t an option; plating automation provides the Chinese with the option of branching into more specialized markets.

Automation and Employment

Whenever an industry automates production lines, fears of job loss inevitably arise. Yes, plating automation removes some jobs from the finishing floor. However, automated finishing machines still require monitoring, maintenance and repair, opening the door to new employment opportunities.

A Safer Environment

While the finishing industry has an admirable safety record, it can’t be denied that we work with caustic and toxic chemical compounds at high temperatures. A finishing floor accident can cause serious and lifelong injuries. Because plating automation reduces the need for human labor in the actual plating process, it can result in an even safer work environment.

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