By Greg Merrill
8 Things Needed to Get an Industrial Automation Project Quote
Industrial manufacturers in virtually every industry are leveraging automated machines, evolving how they produce products to keep up with consumer demands. With the cost of automation becoming more affordable, the cost-benefit analysis of automating tedious and repetitive manual tasks has become an attractive option for many manufacturers today.
As the largest and most capable engineering company in Northeast Ohio, Steven Douglas Corp. (SDC) works with companies in a variety of industries. One of the questions we’re most commonly asked is, “how much does automation cost for an industrial project?”
In order to calculate the cost for an industrial automation project, we need to gather specific information from the prospective customer. We typically receive the majority of this information in a statement of work (SOW) or a request for quote (RFQ) document. Below, we outlined the information we need to quote an industrial automation project.
1. Required Standards, Practices, and Components
Are there any particular standards, practices, or components that need to be used when building your automated machine? This list of requirements can often depend on a company’s automation experience, business relationships, etc.
Your requirements could be as detailed and specific as to the type of automated machine you desire or the particular supplier you want to source your components. For example, your equipment maintenance staff might have more experience working with an Allen Bradley PLC over a Mitsubishi and thus make Allen Bradley a required standard on your SOW or RFQ.
2. Drawings, Sample Parts, and Tooling
Do you have any drawings? Any sample parts? Is there tooling involved? Do you have something that’s assembled or not assembled? This information is crucial for our team to fully understand the scope of work for the finished product. It allows our engineers to take the product apart and put it back together, understand its inner workings, and identify ways to manipulate the parts with machinery, rather than human intervention.
3. Annual Volumes and Desired Cycle Times
What are the annual volumes you hope to achieve from an automated machine? This number typically depends on a company’s estimated return on investment.
For example, an operator might be able to assemble one part per minute or 480 parts during an 8-hour shift. During that same cycle time, companies must ask themselves what kind of output would be expected from the automated machine in your desired cycle time? Knowing whether an automated machine needs to assemble a part in 20 seconds versus two seconds to meet your demands will impact the cost of your project.
4. Required Inspection and/or Testing
Quality assurance is a crucial step in any manufacturing process. It’s important that the correct inspection and/or testing measures are implemented to ensure that the automated machine is working properly. SDC has the experience and capabilities to integrate various automated inspection and testing systems into your custom machine. For example, we can integrate a machine vision inspection system to ensure that a part is properly oriented, a measurement gauge to ensure that a part is the correct size, or an air testing system to ensure a hose doesn’t leak.
5. Project Timeline
Understanding when you want the automated machine to be in production on your shop floor is an obvious, but necessary piece of information to include in your SOW or RFQ. Before we take on a new automation project, we need to be confident that we have the time and space available to ensure we can complete your project in a timely manner.
6. Budget and/or ROI Expectations
A company’s budget for an automation project is typically based on their anticipated ROI. Consider the cost-benefit analysis of replacing manual labor with automation. According to the Boston Consulting Group, increased automation in the workforce could cut labor costs by an average of 22 percent in the U.S. alone. Understanding your expected ROI will help you determine how much to invest in your automation project.
7. Ideal Machine Footprint
Real estate is another important factor when it comes to designing and building an automated machine. While the machine footprint isn’t always included in the SOW or RFQ, it’s a necessary conversation for us to have. In order to design and build a custom machine, our engineers need to understand how much space is available on the shop floor. Likewise, the customer needs to know how much space to dedicate to the machine in their factory.
8. Automation Experience
It isn’t typical for a business to list their level of automation experience on a SOW or RFQ. However, when starting a relationship with a prospective customer, we like to get a sense of the degree of automation experience our customers have. This tells us how technical we can be when describing automated machines, control systems, robotics, machine maintenance, etc. It also tells us where your company expertise lies, such as in the Mitsubishi vs. Allen Bradley PLC example described above.
Start Your Next Industrial Automation Project with SDC
At SDC, our team puts a lot of careful thought and consideration into quoting industrial automation projects. We rely heavily on both the information listed above and on our 20+ years of experience designing and building custom automated machines to estimate the cost, so all parties involved can feel confident moving forward. Ready to get started? Contact SDC today to discuss your upcoming automation project. In the meantime, check out some of our past projects.