Understanding Turnkey Automation in Manufacturing

turnkey automation

Turnkey automation evokes vivid imagery of autocorrection, futuristic manufacturing, and 24-hour, hands-off industrial production.

This concept represents a future where manufacturing solutions aren’t only automated but are delivered ready to use, ensuring efficiency and a seamless start-up. Installing the right turnkey solutions means investing in a future of manufacturing that promises ease, innovation, and 24/7 operational capabilities, all while minimizing the need for continuous human oversight.

It’s impossible not to dream of a machine that requires nothing from the customer except to turn it on and say, “Go.” 

One of the most common requests from potential manufacturing customers is that whatever automated solution is proposed for the project is that it must be turnkey automation. Before you make this request yourself, we’d like to both inform and assure you that as you take the first steps on your custom automation project journey, your scoped automation project bases itself on turnkey engineering.

Related Reading: Choosing Your First Automation Project 

Turnkey Automation= Automation

turnkey machining solutions

A manufacturing automation project that doesn’t work on turnkey has not been scoped properly, fails at the intended purpose, and may not even be an automated solution. When you’re defining automation, you’re describing a process that operates on its own. 

If a process requires constant manual input, or at least the same amount of input and output as the manual process, it is hardly considered a turnkey automated solution. Let’s look at the minimum expectation of a custom automated/turnkey machine.

Push Button Operation

For turnkey machining solutions, the goal is seamless operation from beginning to end. This involves comprehensive internal programming that manages every step of the production process, ensuring efficiency and precision. 

Operators engage with the system through straightforward actions, such as pressing a button or using the Human Machine Interface (HMI) to dictate the quantity and timing of tasks. This simplicity highlights the effectiveness of turnkey machine design in enhancing operational efficiency, where minimal input yields maximum output, aligning perfectly with the ideals of turnkey manufacturing.

Attendance Instead of Labor

In turnkey automation, the focus shifts from labor-intensive processes to oversight and management. This approach significantly reduces the need for manual labor, often transforming a task that would require multiple workers into one that needs only occasional supervision. 

The power of turnkey machining solutions in manufacturing lies in their ability to streamline operations. Here, the operator’s role is simplified to initiating the machine’s operation or selecting a preprogrammed sequence, ensuring the efficiency and reduced labor involvement inherent in turnkey machine design.

Runs Automatically

In a turnkey automation system, unlike manual production lines that may slow or halt due to issues at any stage, a turnkey solution maintains consistent operation. Such systems operate continuously as long as they’re supplied with the necessary materials. 

This automation advantage allows for uninterrupted production, free from the constraints of traditional work schedules, breaks, or the costs of downtime required by human labor, showcasing the efficiency and flexibility of turnkey machine design.

Solution Ownership

With turnkey automation, the focus shifts towards complete ownership of the solution, where the system not only undertakes specific tasks, such as part creation, process offloading, or packaging, but does so in a way that directly addresses and resolves your operational challenges. 

This shift significantly reduces issues like production bottlenecks, labor turnover during a labor crisis, and safety-related expenses, leading to a decrease in rework, warranty costs, and waste.

The result?

Your capacity to meet increasing product demand rises, which is one of the primary benefits of adopting turnkey manufacturing practices.

Opportunity over ROI

Introducing turnkey automation not only promises ROI over time but also immediately boosts production capacity upon integration. This shift enables your company to significantly expand its operational capabilities and opens up new avenues for revenue generation rather than merely focusing on cost savings.

Remember, cost-oriented is not goal-oriented, so always look for opportunity over ROI. With the enhanced capacity provided by turnkey machining solutions, your business is positioned to explore new sales opportunities, increase manufacturing output, and invest in R&D, turning the potential of your automated systems into tangible growth and innovation avenues.

Consistent Scope

Implementing turnkey automation solutions into your production line introduces a level of consistency and predictability unattainable with manual operations. By removing the human variables of different skill sets, mindsets, and communication styles, a turnkey system ensures product quality and operational consistency at any speed.

Plus, of course, with remote maintenance and upgrades of automated systems available, downtimes become predictable and less disruptive compared to the uncertainties of labor availability, enhancing overall production efficiency and reliability through turnkey machine design.

Turnkey Automation Partnership Tips

turnkey manufacturing

For a turnkey automation project to be truly effective, it needs to prioritize not just productivity and efficiency but also consistency, safety, quality, and the well-being of employees. Achieving this requires a deep understanding of engineering, thorough project scoping, and clear communication. That means choosing the right robotic automation partner.

This kind of project isn’t just about implementing automated solutions but about forming a partnership that comprehensively addresses all aspects of production and workplace environment. The methods you need to use as both customer and partner to achieve those goals are as follows.

Seek Single Source

Choosing a single-source provider for turnkey automation ensures protection of intellectual property, adherence to timelines, effective communication management, and precise scoping, offering advantages that multi-vendor approaches cannot match. A unified team offers seamless integration of machine design, electrical and mechanical engineering, construction, and implementation, reducing the risks associated with dispersing these tasks among multiple contractors. 

Going with the lowest bidder opens your project to risks you simply don’t have to take. The single-source approach guarantees maximum control over custom solutions and promotes consistent engineering outcomes.

Invest in Scoping Time

Successful turnkey automation projects dedicate significant time to thorough planning and preparation, including project assessment, business research, and defining project scope, before drafting the statement of work. 

This extensive preparatory phase ensures that the turnkey solution not only serves its intended purpose for years but also continues to align with your company’s revenue goals and operational needs. There’s a clear need to invest time in scoping for long-term relevance and success. Remember, poor communication should never cost you money.

Prioritize ROI over Cost

Focusing on ROI rather than upfront costs ensures your project remains on target and delivers long-term benefits. Opting for a turnkey solution that offers quick ROI not only recovers your initial investment faster but also contributes positively to your bottom line over time.

A turnkey machine with low ROI will struggle to support your business and trickle only mediocre profit after a prolonged period. Spending more upfront for better ROI is the smart choice and a strategic decision that pays off significantly in the long run.

High-Level Requests

Your primary responsibility is to communicate your high-level needs and let the expertise of your turnkey automation partner guide the engineering specifics. By focusing on what you know best — your business — and providing essential details upfront, you enable your integrator to tailor turnkey machining solutions, manufacturing processes, and machine designs that align with your unique requirements.

This collaborative approach applies their technical skills with your industry insights for optimal results. You know your business. They know the engineering.

Avoid Scope Creep

Making substantial changes once the design phase is concluded can pose challenges within turnkey automation projects. Alterations such as extra SKUs, material modifications, or additional functionalities typically fall outside the original project scope, leading to costly revisions.

These adjustments add not only financial burdens but also risks and potential delays, often escalating beyond simple additions. For major changes, it might be more effective to consider a separate project to ensure that your turnkey machine designs remain focused and on track.

Designated Representative

To ensure effective communication and streamline decision-making in your turnkey automation project, appoint a dedicated project manager as the main liaison with your integrator. This person should have the authority for quick approvals, be likely to stay through the project’s duration and prepare a knowledgeable backup to preserve the project’s continuity (and maintain institutional memory).

This strategy prevents communication gaps, keeping your turnkey projects on track and within scope.

Scheduled Communication

Maintaining regular communication is crucial in turnkey automation projects. Schedule monthly meetings for updates and remain open to additional conversations as needed. Clearly stating your preferred communication methods early on — whether it’s email, phone calls, messaging apps, or in-person meetings — ensures smooth and efficient coordination with your integrator, keeping your turnkey machine projects well-aligned and informed.

Disciplined Testing and Verification

In all turnkey automation projects, disciplined testing and verification are essential. Investing more initially can accelerate the engineering phase, but the integration schedule is crucial for thorough testing, review, and approval over months or even years. 

Sticking to the provided timeline, including all stages of integration, is vital. When your integrator provides a Gantt chart of the integration stages, assume the time budget reflects necessity. Skipping steps, demanding shortcuts, and cutting corners will cost you in the long term, impacting the long-term success and efficiency of your turnkey machining solutions.

Plan For the Next Project

A forward-thinking turnkey integrator designs your system with potential upgrades and future projects in mind, ensuring your turnkey solution is adaptable for additional processing needs. Assume that your custom turnkey solution can benefit from more secondary processing (pick and place, packaging and palletizing, machine tending, and more), and continue to look for other 80/20 processes on the floor.

This encourages you to continually identify and implement improvements across your operations, applying the scalability of your turnkey automation to enhance efficiency and productivity as your business evolves.

Related Reading: Questions to Ask When Choosing an Integrator for Automating Your Manufacturing

Understanding What Turnkey Automation Is

turnkey machine design

The truth is that with infinite money, infinite time, and infinite effort, any process can be automated from top to bottom. But a fully automated manufacturing facility is a misleading definition of turnkey automation.

Even collaborative robots, often called cobots, represent the application of turnkey automation. They may be designed and programmed to work alongside people at human speeds, but they automatically take on small-scale, repetitive tasks. They may wait for a laborer to finish manual tasks, but they maintain the teamwork of another laborer.

Solution-based practical engineering drives successful turnkey automation projects because responsible turnkey automation marries practical engineering with sound business. Effective turnkey automation appears in an end-to-end manufacturing line and within a single automated process module.

Realistic turnkey automation prioritizes ROI over the idea of just “automating everything.”

Common Types of Turnkey Automation

Even the most simple turnkey automated solution requires some custom engineering. Here are some common types of turnkey automation to help you identify opportunities in your manufacturing.

  • Pick and Place: This is where turnkey machine design shines, automating the precise movement of parts and demonstrating efficiency in assembly and transfer, a cornerstone of innovative turnkey machining solutions. There’s a reason why pick and place robots are one of the most common examples of turnkey manufacturing machines.
  • Linear Process: Also sometimes called a linear transfer machine, these take full-length extrusions, or any preprocessed raw stock indexed from stage to stage and automatically stamp, cut, or modify one piece of material all at once, limiting your speed only by the slowest action in your production. These turnkey solutions streamline the transformation of materials through every production stage.
  • Assembly: At the heart of turnkey machining solutions, these machines automate the intricate task of assembling parts, applying the advanced customization and efficiency of turnkey projects.
  • Machine Tending: A testament to the adaptability of turnkey manufacturing, these machines automate material handling, enhancing productivity by optimizing secondary processes within the production line. These secondary process machines can load raw materials, unload finished goods, or remove waste material.

Transform Your Production with Expert Turnkey Automation Solutions

Are you ready to revolutionize your manufacturing process with the pinnacle of automation? Turnkey automation is your gateway to the future, offering a blend of sophisticated engineering and simplicity in operation.

Imagine a world where your manufacturing needs are seamlessly met with precision and efficiency. That’s the promise of turnkey automation — a world where complex engineering solutions become user-friendly applications, driving your production forward without the hassle.

With the help of our expertise, you can easily take your project from concept to completion. We’re not just providers. We’re partners dedicated to ensuring your manufacturing processes excel. Our turnkey solutions are designed to meet your unique needs, optimizing your operations for peak performance.

Don’t let complexity hold you back. Whether you’re exploring the possibilities of automation for the first time or looking to enhance your existing setup, we’re here to help. Share your project details with us, schedule a virtual meeting, or call us directly at (262)-622-6104.

Let’s make your automated manufacturing vision a reality.


About the Author:

Sean McKittrick, as Project Program Coordinator at DEVELOP LLC, brings a multifaceted background from Knox College. McKittrick’s first year at DEVELOP LLC has been marked by significant team growth and zero turnover, showcasing his ability to build a collaborative and effective work environment. His experience spans quality management in healthcare software to managing production for a million pounds of material monthly, highlighting his diverse expertise in project coordination and manufacturing excellence.