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5 Key Benefits of Automation in Manufacturing for the Consumer Goods Industry (With Real-Life Examples)

November 28, 2023

 by David Collins III

an inside of a factory where orange robot arms are in progress of factory work

In today's rapidly evolving world, no industry is exempt from the transformative power of automation and AI technology. Rapidly raising costs of raw materials, labor, safety and environmental compliance will move the consumer goods industry to embrace automations in ways it has not before. Additionally, automation will contribute to a more desirable EBITDA multiple, adding financial value to your manufacturing business. 

This blog delves into the significance of automation for manufacturing in the consumer goods industry and how it contributes to the sector's growth, especially as more companies look to reshore operations to higher cost countries.

1. Factory Efficiency and Productivity

One of the primary drivers for implementing factory automation systems in the consumer goods industry is its significant boost in efficiency and productivity. Automation systems can tirelessly perform repetitive tasks without fatigue or errors when properly set up and maintained. This not only accelerates the production process but also ensures consistent product quality. Improved efficiency and increased productivity lead to shorter lead times, reduced manufacturing costs, and enhanced profitability.

A notable example of this is Bath and Body Works' automation initiative when reshoring. By implementing factory automation systems and consolidating production in Ohio, they reduced lead times from a staggering 3 months to just 21 days, exemplifying how automation in reshoring efforts can significantly enhance factory efficiency and productivity.

However, it's crucial to recognize that the full benefits of automation in manufacturing can only be realized with careful planning. Companies diving into automation without strategic planning risk underutilizing their investment. This can lead to expensive equipment being left idle or, worse, causing excessive downtime due to an imbalanced factory line. Proper planning ensures that the advantages of factory automation, such as cost efficiency and streamlined production, are fully harnessed, preventing such pitfalls and maximizing the return on investment in the consumer goods industry.

 

2. Product Consistency and Quality Control

Consumer goods are synonymous with reliability and consistency. Automated systems are designed to deliver precisely that. By minimizing human intervention in critical production processes, factory automation eliminates the potential for human error. This, in turn, ensures that each product adheres to the same stringent quality standards. Quality control and product consistency are paramount in the consumer goods industry to maintain customer trust and brand reputation.

Automated quality control, especially with advanced machine vision technology, revolutionizes product inspection. It surpasses the human ability to detect minute flaws and deviations, such as minor imperfections or inconsistencies. This precision is vital in industries like electronics and automotive, where even small defects can greatly impact functionality and safety. 

In 2020, Earth Rated, an eco-conscious company known for its sustainable dog products, implemented CMC's automation in its manufacturing processes. This integration dramatically improved delivery efficiency, achieving a 100% rate. Additionally, it reduced raw material costs by 10%, enhancing Earth Rated's commitment to sustainability without sacrificing product quality.

 

 

3. Manufacturing Cost Reduction and Resource Optimization

Factory automation systems can offer long-term cost-saving benefits, positively contributing to your long-term EBITDA. By minimizing labor costs, waste, and reducing the likelihood of product defects, it leads to cost reductions. Moreover, automated systems can be programmed to optimize resource usage, such as energy and raw materials. Lower operational costs translate to more competitive pricing for consumers and higher manufacturer profit margins.

In the case of Bath and Body Works, despite facing higher initial costs in North America, their strategic automation and reshaping of the supply chain proved the potential for operational cost reductions. This decision, though initially more expensive, optimized resources and demonstrated how automation could be a cost-effective solution in higher-cost manufacturing environments in the consumer goods industry.

 

4. Scalability and Flexibility of Manufacturing Operations

The consumer goods industry is characterized by ever-changing consumer preferences and market demands. If well implemented, factory automation planning enables manufacturers to adapt to these shifts efficiently. Automated systems can be reprogrammed or reconfigured to produce different products without the need for a complete overhaul of the manufacturing process. This flexibility allows companies to respond swiftly to market changes and capitalize on new opportunities. 

As the avenues for low-cost manufacturing decrease and the desire to cut down on excessive inventory increases, flexibility and scalability will become increasingly critical for manufacturers to stay competitive and responsive to market trends. By leveraging adaptable automation systems, companies can efficiently manage production in alignment with fluctuating market demands and consumer preferences, ensuring both economic viability and customer satisfaction.

Bath and Body Works' automation efforts highlight the adaptability of automation. The reduced lead time and localized production in their Ohio facility enabled them to efficiently manage production in alignment with fluctuating market demands, demonstrating the scalability and flexibility that automation offers in manufacturing operations.

 

5. Data-Driven Decision Making

Automation systems generate a wealth of data related to production, performance, and quality. This data can be harnessed for analysis and insights, which can be used to inform future production processes within the factory. With real-time monitoring and reporting, manufacturers can fine-tune processes and optimize production to reduce production waste. Data-driven decision-making is a crucial element in staying competitive and continuously improving in the everchanging consumer goods industry.

 

Securing a Competitive Edge with Factory Automation

In a crowded and competitive marketplace, having a well-executed factory automation plan can provide a significant advantage. It allows companies to differentiate themselves through higher product quality, lower costs, and faster response to market changes. In an industry where innovation is required to survive and strong competition fierce, staying ahead of the competition is crucial.

The consumer goods industry is undergoing a technological revolution driven by the importance of factory automation planning as it moves away from the easy days of low-cost manufacturing. Embracing intelligent automation not only ensures greater efficiency, consistency, and quality but also delivers cost reductions, scalability, and a competitive edge. Moreover, automation supports data-driven decision-making and allows for more flexible responses. For consumer goods manufacturers, a well-executed factory automation plan is not just a competitive edge; it's a necessity for thriving in a dynamic and tough environment.


Want to learn more about automation in the consumer goods industry? Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.

Topics: Automation

David Collins III

David Collins III

David was a Senior Strategy Consultant for Deloitte, served in Iraq as a Special Operations Civil Affairs soldier, and as a Governance Advisor to the Afghan Government with the Department of State. At CMC, David advises clients on strategy and investments.

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