Monday, December 23, 2013

Automation’s effect on Manufacturing: Case Study – the Plastic Bag

The idea of automation sounds foreign in the home or the course of a typical day for most Americans, but the products of automated processes are things we interact with on a daily basis.  Every time we pack a lunch, throw garbage away, or go shopping, we are interacting with products that are a direct result of automated manufacturing.

For us at IIS, one of the best examples of an industry that exemplifies the power of automation is the fabrication of plastic bags.  From a shopping bag to a sandwich bag, the processes that exist to bring a bag into existence from a roll of extruded plastic are numerous and modular – a perfect candidate for an automated solution.  Depending on whether the bags will have zippers, re-sealable strips, handles, or any other configuration of features, the amount of steps in the process of creation on an industrial scale can be very complex.  All of this requires a sophisticated system of control, for the timing of each step along the way from slitting and printing to punching handles and heat-sealing the edges.  With a modular system such as is common for plastic bag making machine manufacturers, customization of control and ease of use become paramount objectives in the search for automation control solutions.  Many other manufacturing processes have similar constraints that make automation incredibly attractive as a solution – but only insofar as the technology is dependable, consistent, customizable, and easy to work with.  

The evolution of automated control has a significant impact on the availability and widespread use of things like plastic bags – things that may not appear at first to be the result of countless innovations and iterative steps along a continually evolving process, but bear the mark of incredible consistency in manufacturing that can only be a result of a carefully controlled automated process.  


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