Economic Justification in Automation Projects



Marco Fehmer, General Manager, DSP; and Claudio Boër, Vice-President of the Board, University of Applied Science of Southern Switzerland; Switzerland


In recent years, process automation has become a common in design guidelines for greenfield port planning and brownfield revamping. Automated quay cranes, stacking cranes, shuttle carries, AGVs, remote driving consoles and smart devices for real-time location systems, OCR, automated gates, automatic inventory and hand off systems have proven their efficacy and value on many projects. However, an economic justification is always required too.

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This justification is based on the quantification of cost savings from increased production, increased uptime and reduced raw material costs, yet there are also more “soft” beneficial aspects such as increased flexibility (to be debated according to each project) and safer environments. The bottom line is always what makes a company more competitive.

The development of automation

Automation has always been at the forefront of logistical operations after the first industrial revolution started with the introduction of the steam engine. The steam engine and the other enabling technologies such as electricity with the electric motor (and its derivatives) has pushed the substitution of manpower in manufacturing and, in a more broad sense, in all production and industrial activities.

The coming of the computer and its marriage with machinery then pushed automation in production and assembly lines even further, while simultaneously increasing speed, precision and availability.

With larger computer capacities and more powerful computers, automation was able to spread beyond the simple…

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