Duct fabrication is quickly adopting automation just as fast as other areas of manufacturing. Whether you choose to incorporate automation into your shop could be a crucial decision in enhancing your shop’s productivity of ductwork. The investment in equipment to automate duct fabrication is not for every company, but it can be a potentially profitable option when the time is right.

By 2022, HVAC industry positions are expected to increase by 21 percent. In addition to the need for more technicians, buildings will need more ductwork, which will increase the demand for quality duct fabrication in the future.

Even if your shop focuses on small, custom orders, you may find your future orders growing. This increase may necessitate automation of duct fabrication if you don't currently have it. Here are three points to consider:

Automation in the HVAC industry

Businesses with HVAC systems use automated systems to easily climate control their buildings. It doesn’t end there, however. Automation extends all the way through the industry to the manufacturing of the actual ducts. While this area has long been one requiring skilled individuals, today, manpower and machines can craft ducts of equal quality.

Automation allows for production up to 24 hours a day. Since the equipment only needs to stop when it undergoes repairs or maintenance, your facility will increase its production of ducts with automated systems. With higher productivity, your profits can also increase.

Unlike human duct fabricators, machines rarely make mistakes or tire, which enhances quality in crafting uniform ductwork every time. Quality control becomes easier even when producing numerous pieces since machines have greater precision.

Benefits of automation for shop employees

With any metalwork, there’s an inherent risk of injury. Automating the duct fabricating process helps protect shop employees from some of these hazards. Marlin Steel workforce encountered four injuries from hand-worked metal annually. Automating the process eliminated the chance of employees severing fingers or losing eyes, which occurred with hand-working metal.

Automating duct fabrication also makes your facility more efficient, allowing you to hire even more employees. Marlin Steel doubled its workforce after going to automation instead of decreasing its workforce the way some feared would happen. But it’s important to note that automating the duct fabrication process requires a different specialization from duct fabricators. You'll need more engineers and people who can repair the automation equipment. In some parts of the country, such personnel is hard to come by, and that lack of availability could be a signal for you to hold off on automating your shop for now.

Automated duct fabrication isn’t for every shop

Although automated duct fabrication has its advantages, it's not for every shop. If you engage in lean manufacturing practices, you may want to carefully examine your operating budget to see if you have room for automation equipment. Invest if you have the money for it. If you don't, consider making operations with your duct fabricators more efficient. For smaller orders, automation may not make financial sense, as human duct fabricators can fulfill small orders at a lower cost.

Not every shop will benefit from installing automation machinery now. You may need to delay automation until it becomes more financially feasible or until your orders grow to warrant it. Whether you choose to automate now or later, you’ll find your shop's business changing for the better. If automation isn't for your business now, the least you could do is to learn about the process and what's required. Then, you’ll be ready to embrace the technology when it’s the right time for your shop.