Need help dealing with inflation? Automate

Jul 11, 2023 by Mark Dingley

OEE ultimately leads to lower manufacturing costs and higher profitability.

Here's How

Manufacturing companies are battling the highest inflation rates in more than two decades.

Some manufacturers might look to traditional cost-containment approaches such as recruitment freezes, cost-cutting on materials, or other tactics, for example price increases or shrinkflation.

But there’s another solution that can reduce costs and help you get a leg up on the competition.


Automation is a good strategy at any time, particularly when you’re struggling with cost pressures.

Digitalisation and automation can be revolutionary. According to a Gartner survey of more than 200 CFOs and finance executives, 40% are planning to spend more on IT in the coming months, recognising its value as an essential business enabler and a tool to tackle the effects of inflation on margins.

How does automation help combat inflation?

There are two types of value automation can offer to manufacturers:

1. Operational value

The biggest value automation brings is process improvement and cost reduction by simplifying, reducing, or eliminating manual tasks.

Whether it’s automated packaging lines and labelling machines or palletisation, automated technology frees employees from manual tasks to add value elsewhere, while also increasing output, improving quality and reducing waste.

For example, rather than using staff to apply labels to products, a Label Printer Applicator (LPA) improves productivity while freeing up your team for other areas.

At the same time, it ensures more consistent, higher-quality results.

Bendigo-based food manufacturer JL King & Co (in central Victoria) produces a range of ready meals and gourmet salads. The company used to hand label all its products. All 55 lines.

Implementing LPA machines eliminated the need for an employee to be dating and batch-coding the individual labels.

AusFresh is another company benefiting from labelling automation. Despite sending products nationwide, AusFresh was using a highly manually intensive process to label cartons by hand.

One person printed up to 7,000 labels daily while standing at the printer to rem¬ove printed rolls and wind them manually.

Local Suppliers

JL King & Co Gourmet Salads.

They passed the labels to another operator, who used a date-gun to apply the batch code and use-by date. The employee would apply two labels to each box.

This process had a high risk of human error, and the whole line had to be stopped if labels were missing – ¬meaning lost productivity and increased waste.

By implementing an integrated carton print and apply system, AusFresh saved a person a day, and improved productivity and quality.

Automation can also allow manufacturers to produce multiple products from one manufacturing line. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this enabled some manufacturers to pivot and make alternative products as needed.

2. Strategic value

Along with improving productivity, automation can give you access to data that can be used to enhance your business.

Data collection and analysis is the key for manufacturers to improve business processes, find operational efficiencies, improve quality assurance, and even transform business models.

Line-performance software, such as Matthews iDSnet, allows you to collect data from equipment and display it on live dashboards. Managers can then use the insights from this data to pinpoint stoppages, bottlenecks and issues, and, ultimately improve their Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

For example, you can track the number of rejects and assign a reject code to the reason for rejection and the volume rejected in a set period.

You can set a “normal” tolerance threshold and the operator is alerted when rejects exceed this level, meaning your operators can fix the line issues before you suffer any further waste.

Manufacturers can also use analytics to schedule workers more cost-effectively, schedule machine maintenance, predict equipment issues and optimise inventory levels.

Some platforms have also helped manufacturers cut their energy costs. For example, National Ceramic Industries Australia is now saving upwards of $40,000 per month on gas spending thanks to automated gas monitoring and forecasting.

What should you automate for the best value?

Any process that involves human input or interaction is an opportunity for automation.

There’s a vast range of processes that manufacturers can automate – coding, labelling, label inspection, check-weighing and many more.

But you don’t need to automate them all.

Be strategic, and consider what will bring the most value to your business now and with any future changes. Then, focus on quickly implementing adaptable technologies that deliver results and a fast ROI.

Local Suppliers

AusFresh antipasto retail packs.

Over to you

In today’s climate, automation is a no-brainer for manufacturers. The real challenge is to work out what to automate first. The earlier you start, the more likely the business is to maintain or build profits – despite inflation challenges.

Speak to our team to find out how we can help you save costs, time and resources through automation.