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assembly line automation
Lee K. HouseMar 22, 20248 min read

Optimizing Your Product For Assembly Line Automation

After long days and headaches, you’ve successfully planned a part component that will suit your project needs. However, the question remains: is it scalable? 

From the initial design to the finished product, material converters like Strouse search for opportunities to innovate and automate manufacturing. 

Today, we’ll be covering how assembly line automation works so you can optimize your product for a less costly, more efficient production process. 

What is an Automated Assembly Line?

An automated assembly line contains machines and stations that process and assemble manufactured parts into finished products. Assembly lines allow companies to scale up their quantities and reduce individual unit prices.


The term “automation” can refer to different standards, so it’s crucial to determine where your automation goals lie. 

A fully automated assembly process refers to machine-controlled operations, whereas a semi-automated process consists of operators placing parts using jigs or fixtures. 

  • Fully automated: less manpower, works better for simpler designs, requires more expensive machines, so there’s often a higher upfront cost.
  • Semi-automated: can get started faster for less money, but it’s less efficient/more time-consuming.


Automation is often a means of scaling up your business and failing to plan for a large-scale process could lead to costly mistakes and setbacks

If you plan on scaling, you’ll want to account for your quantity growth goals. Picking automation processes and equipment depends on how large you plan to scale from where you are right now.


Automation can be an expensive process, especially when paying the upfront equipment costs to make it happen. Budgeting for equipment and maintenance costs will give you a realistic view of your automation capabilities. 

“You CAN automate everything, but does it make sense? Does it fit into the ROI?” —Skip Rang, Manufacturing Engineer at Strouse


When planning an automated process, does your manufacturer bring you from start to finish? You’ll want to find a partner that offers assistance throughout the scaling process. For instance, an adhesive converter will support you from the design stage throughout the automation phase

How To Optimize Your Product 

The easier your product is to manufacture, the easier it’ll be to increase your scale for automation. 


Your production goals ultimately determine the level of automation you need. However, to find the correct level of automation for your project, you can consider the following factors:


  • Low volumes (generally 10s to low 1,000s)
      • Typically, this doesn’t warrant the cost/time and resource devotion required for automation because the cost savings are just not there.
  • Medium volumes (generally high 1,000s to low 100,000s)
      • This is where semi-automation opportunities typically fall. There are savings to be had by incorporating a fixture/jig/machine to assist with assembly. Still, the ROI on a fully automatic solution might be too many years past the project’s visible future.
  • High volumes (generally high 100,000s and up)
      • Full automation is a potential option from the beginning, especially if there’s clear visibility into the project's future (such as a 5-year+ contract, etc.). These projects have a fairly clear value outlined and a relatively quick ROI.

It’s essential to consider the current and future states of your project. 

Often, the first two years of business exist in a “low-volume” tier, yet you may have concrete plans to ramp up to volumes in the “medium” or “high” tiers. If this applies to your project, you should consider automation for design/production as soon as possible, regardless of whether the present case would warrant it. 


  • Relatively simple design or assembly process

Simple processes are much easier and less expensive to automate. Because there might already be equipment designed for this on the market, the cost of entry has a somewhat known level of investment. Semi-automated and fully-automated assembly has a higher likelihood of fit. 

  • Complex design or assembly process

Complex designs are much more challenging and expensive to automate. The necessary equipment might not exist on the market, meaning not only will the associated development costs be far higher, but the upfront investment level will also be fairly unknown.

In addition, it’s possible that your complex assembly just isn’t feasible to do in an automated fashion. This frequently leads to limitations in using automation as an available option and occasionally forces the customer to revisit a design to adjust for manufacturability or automation-ability. 


So, now that you’ve decided which level of automation you’re using, how can you ensure it matches your design?


      • Sheeted parts are generally far more difficult to automate

Sheeted parts require the additional functionality of orienting and presenting the parts in the automation process. Parts on a roll are oriented and can be presented in an automation process with high accuracy and precision using fairly basic methods.

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Typically, the automation of converted parts requires one or more adhesive layers to be exposed so the component can be laminated or placed into the assembly. 

  • Roll form presentation addresses this for the bottom layer

As the liner is pulled over a peel bar, the part is “dispensed” from the liner and rewound, leaving the automation process to take the part from there.

  • Sometimes a 2nd/3rd/etc. adhesive layer or portion needs to be exposed during the assembly process

Think of a part designed to bond two components together, like a cell phone screen to its body. Once the part is introduced/placed onto the screen, the next layer must be exposed prior to placing the screen sub-assembly onto the body to complete the part. This can be done in several ways:

      • Add features such as tabs, extended liners, folded liners, etc. to the adhesive part design so a robot (or person in semi-automation) can easily remove the liner

Liners without removal features can be quite challenging to remove otherwise.

      • Incorporate different types of liner technology into the adhesive part, such as double-sided liners

In these cases, the adhesive components are self-wound, and there’s no liner on the second adhesive layer. The automation can sometimes be designed to handle exposed adhesives, which require no additional operation to expose that additional adhesive layer.


  • Design complexity is a critical part of automation feasibility.

Sometimes, a design’s features, the specific nature of its construction, or the raw material(s) it’s composed of are a detriment to the feasibility of the automation. 

*** In these cases, we’d work with the customer to see if any alternative designs or materials could accomplish the same functionality as the original design while improving the manufacturability.

  • Tolerance requirements can drive the manufacturing and assembly method and can also pose a serious threat to feasibility.

The question here is, are the design tolerances “functional” tolerances?

Essentially, you’ll want to consider whether your, say, ±0.002” requirement between two registered features is an actual “requirement.” If not, perhaps it can be opened to something larger that will still allow the part to function normally while enabling us to alter or improve the manufacturing/assembly process.


Wait! Before you go running to buy a machine, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • What equipment already exists to perform what you need it to?

As I mentioned, if a store-bought machine already exists for what you need, it’ll be cheaper than a custom machine. Similarly, finding a machine that performs one task exceptionally well might serve you far better than a multi-use machine.

  • Do you have the in-house capabilities, or does outsourcing make more sense? 

You may end up outsourcing if you don’t have the in-house automation capabilities. Outsourcing your assembly line automation can save you from the following considerations:

      • Do you have the right “footprint”/floor plan to store the machines?
      • Have you planned the air and electrical capabilities to power the equipment you invest in?
      • Did you consider who the equipment operators will be?
      • Is the equipment user-friendly, and will there be a learning curve?

You might be over-complicating your process by planning on doing all of your automation in-house. Instead of leaving the automation process for the end of a project, consider the benefits of reaching out to a converter that will incorporate automation into their production and packaging process


Pilot testing consists of running your project on a smaller scale to prove out concept. A pilot test should reduce engineering time by locating potential issues quickly. 

Regarding automation for flexible material converting, pilot tests might involve manipulating processes by hand or 3D printing for concept validation


The data you collect from a pilot test will help you identify “sigma levels,” or the number of deviations that fit into upper and lower specification limits. 

In a practical sense, pilot testing data allows you to test the quality levels of a process for consistency. Pilot testing will enable you to adjust the process until you can identify a reliable, consistent, high-accuracy solution. 

In Conclusion

Achieving an efficient assembly is a challenging feat. Still, by planning and preparing your design for automation, you’ll have taken some necessary steps for a successful process. 

Yet, there’s still one last way to simplify your production.


You’ve probably already noticed me sprinkling in information about converting, and that’s because we’ve witnessed the clear-cut results and financial benefits that we can offer companies looking for a fully optimized and simple production process. 

For more information on the benefits of a converter with automated assembly capabilities, check out the guide above or reach out to us.


Lee K. House

Copywriter & Content Creator for Strouse. Lee graduated from the University of Alabama in the Spring of 2022 with a double major in English and Spanish.