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A guide to kickstarting your industrial automation journey (1 of 5)

June 28, 2024 | Quinn Harker


The democratization of industrial automation technology is now enabling small and medium manufacturers to automate their production processes simply and quickly. Thanks to manufacturing automation platforms and productization, industrial automation is slowly transitioning from a “project-based industry” (with all the cost and timing risk it entails) to a “product industry” with predictable outcomes.

That said, while manufacturing automation has become increasingly within reach, it can still be overwhelming for many SMMs. Before starting your first manufacturing automation project, you must take some essential steps to lay the foundation for success and yield profitable results.

This guide contains tips on how to kick-start your automation journey. It was compiled by Vention experts with decades of experience designing, programming, and deploying automation projects. This is the first blog in the ‘Kickstarting Your Automation Journey’ series.

Step 1: Establish a clear objective

Define a clear objective that will guide the decision-making process and the overall project. While there are many reasons to automate manufacturing processes, the five most common objectives are to save costs, withstand labor shortages, improve product quality, increase throughput, and reduce operating injuries. Understanding how these objectives rank against one another will help make potential trade-offs during the solution’s design.

Step 2: Identify a technical champion

Appoint a “technical champion” with project management experience to lead the manufacturing automation project. This individual will drive the project forward, collaborate with management, share knowledge with the team, and oversee critical steps such as completing the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) and the Site Acceptance Test (SAT) checklists. The technical champion should have some level of familiarity with the likely technology of the automated solution, whether it includes a collaborative robot (cobot), industrial robot, machine vision, conveyance, etc.

Step 3: Form an Advanced Manufacturing Team

An Advanced Manufacturing Team (AMT) consolidates expertise in mechanical design, industrial control, automation, and manufacturing robotics into one group. They are dedicated to driving industrial automation initiatives across one or more manufacturing plants for the company. The AMT is typically guided by the technical champion and will take ownership of the entire automation project from design to operation.

The formation of this team has many benefits, including increased speed and agility in the deployment of automation, decreased CAPEX investment, and more. Over time, it is also important that the AMT gains “process knowledge” across the portfolio of manufacturing processes found within the company’s factory.

Step 4: Gain support from the top-down

Secure the necessary project buy-in from management. Led by the technical champion, clearly articulate the objectives and the potential benefits of the manufacturing automation project to receive the necessary funding, resources, and access. Ensure management understands the risk profile of the chosen automation project and will support the team throughout the execution.

Step 5: Start with a low-risk, quick-win

Identify a low-risk, quick-win for the first automation project. This project should deliver a strong return on investment (ROI) but be simple enough for a newly formed AMT to deliver successfully. One technical champion recommends finding projects that are easily “copied and pasted” across the factory floor or even multiple plants. The first project’s goal is to build internal trust in the AMT. By delivering a successful deployment, management will be more open to supporting future automation projects. Use Vention’s ROI calculator to quickly determine project payback.

Step 6: Involve employees early

Get input from employees across the organization at the outset of the automation project. On many manufacturing floors, operators have valuable process knowledge that can be overlooked. Involve them from the beginning to ensure successful adoption and integration with existing processes.

Step 7: Consider automation integrators or partners

Consider partnering with an experienced system integrator for projects with more complex manufacturing processes. These groups hold specialized process knowledge that may jump-start the AMT. System integrators can provide the necessary expertise to avoid pitfalls and ensure a smooth implementation.

Step 8: Leverage the cloud and data-driven tools

Implement proven technologies such as cloud-based platforms, digital twins, simulation, remote monitoring tools, and more, to analyze data, simulate processes, and drive continuous improvement. Vention’s Manufacturing Automation Platform (MAP) is the only platform on which users of all skill levels can leverage cloud robotics and AI-driven technologies to easily design, automate, deploy, and operate fully automated equipment and robot cells.

Begin by designing in the cloud, then program in a no-code or Python environment, simulate the program behavior in a realistic virtual environment, deploy the full solution in one click, and lastly, track data and performance in real-time for ongoing machine enhancements. By using a single end-to-end platform, deployment risks are drastically reduced, making MAP a top choice for AMTs.


By following this guide, small and medium manufacturers can lay a solid foundation for successful automation initiatives, boosting efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

Vention empowers all businesses, from small manufacturers to large enterprises, to reach their automation goals. With over 18,000 operational machines worldwide and 4,000+ clients in North America and Europe, more manufacturers trust Vention with their automation needs.

This is the first blog in the ‘Kickstarting Your Automation Journey’ series.

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Contact us to kickstart your automation journey today.

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