Dobrasevic, Director of Product Marketing, Bright Machines
Security systems for buildings, whether for homes, small
offices, or large business complexes, are in big demand. Grand View Research
projects the global physical security market to reach $292
billion by 2025, growing at a 9.4% CAGR. That’s a lot of motion sensors,
glass-break detection systems, door-contact monitors, security cameras, smoke
detectors, alarm sirens, and control panels!
It’s also a lot of pressure on manufacturers to find ways to
make these devices more efficiently – faster, at greater scale and quality, and
at lower cost. Putting more humans to work in the basic assembly and testing of
these products has long been the answer, but this approach has its limits.
First, manufacturing-line workers are hard to find. The
National Association of Manufacturers says a record 522,000 manufacturing jobs
in September of 2019, while a report
by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte projects 2.4 million unfilled
openings in the 2020s. Second, human operators introduce a number of variables
that can affect production, from calling in sick to switching jobs.
There’s a better way.
Many building security products are comprised of common
components and assembly processes. For example, smoke detectors and motion
sensors contain circuit boards, plastic housings, buttons, and wall mounts,
each added to an individual unit through a series of discrete assembly tasks,
from pick and place, to screwdriving, labeling, and testing.
For more complex products, such as security cameras and
control panels, additional components and steps are added. Historically, that
required hiring more people, increasing manufacturing cost while making
production output, as noted above, less predictable.
In each of these scenarios, software-defined automation is
proving to be a better solution, one that can handle multi-step assembly
reliably and at scale.
Assembly Required: Meet Your New Workforce
The recent success of a control-panel manufacturer
highlights the virtues of intelligent assembly automation. The company had a
problem – a good problem to have, and
one not uncommon in this industry – its products were in demand, but it was
having difficulty scaling to meet that demand.
At its current factory, it could deploy 3 shifts of 8
workers to do 7 assembly steps, completing 105 units per hour and shipping a
total of 630,000 control panels per year. Not bad, but its buyers wanted more
than 1,000,000 – and even hitting the 630,000 number was proving to be a
Deploying a Bright Machines Microfactory, the company turned
its old math on its head and stepped up and into the next generation of
assembly automation. Across the microfactory, discrete assembly tasks formerly
done manually were performed automatically by robotic cells guided by
intelligent software. The exact steps follow:
- Put label on circuit board and place back cover
over circuit board
- Screw-drive back cover to secure it to front
- Perform “power up” test
- Put battery cover in place on back cover
- Put label on back cover and place bracket over
- Perform functional test
- Put wall mount over bracket
Today, two employees manually kit the control-panel
components onto pallets that are fed into the first microfactory station. As
the assembly process is completed at the seventh station, a third employee
manually packages the finished product.
Any guesses on the throughput gains or economics of this
- The microfactory produced 180 units per hour, a 71% throughput gain over the former
8-person crew, that increased output to 1.1 million units
- It drove the cost of control-panel production of
the 7 assembly steps down to $0.94 per unit, a 34% savings over the human-run lines (over three shifts)
The microfactory – enhanced each step of the way by machine
vision – not only performed pick & place and screwdriving tasks, but an
array of functional tests that might have once seemed too difficult to automate.
For example, leveraging the robotic system’s configurable software, the
control-panel maker was able to teach the robotic cell to perform functional
tests such as RF testing, LED color detection, and other checks on base
functionality vital to verifying product quality. In the past, these human-run
tests were among the assembly process’s most time consuming and error prone.
And with demand continuing to increase, this manufacturer is
betting – based on experience – that its best way to scale is to open a second
Want to learn more? Register
for a complimentary Bright Machines webinar on automating building security