Beginning of automation can be attributed to the industrial revolution way back in the eighteenth century when machines started replacing human efforts and animal power. Since then, the definition of automation has evolved a lot getting more and more complex with each passing decade. Today, we see advancements in fields like computer, technology and electronics, which are totally on a different platform from where mankind started the process of automation a few centuries back.
Today, automation is more about automatic operating systems that are integrated with automatic detection, judgment, data transmission and control, resulting in the execution of a task as per the program instructions. Advanced power electronics technology has taken the industrial automation solution to an altogether different level.
What Is Industrial Automation?
The use of control systems (like computers or robots) and information technology to handle different industrial processes and machines to perform a task replacing humans in the process is called industrial automation. You can say that it is the second step taken by mankind after mechanization. Once the entire set of industrial automation solution is in place, the system is capable of completing the task while controlling and operating independently.
How Has the Purpose of Automation Changed in Today Scenario?
The process of automation started keeping in mind the sole aim of increasing productivity as these automated processes can be run round the clock with accuracy and precision. Also, as a single machine can do the work of many humans, it has helped in reducing the cost of operations. However, as the industrial automation solution started evolving, the focus shifted towards enhancing the quality and getting flexibility in the manufacturing processes. Let’s consider a particular process of the automobile industry – installing pistons into the engine. When done manually, the error rate is anywhere in the range of 1 – 1.5%, but the same task accomplished using automated process gives an error rate of 0.00001%, which is incredible.
Advantages of Industrial Automation
There are various advantages associated with industrial automation solutions. Some of the major ones are:
Reduced Operating Costs: Employing human capital requires a lot of added costs like bonuses, pension coverage, healthcare benefits, paid leaves etc. along with salary. Once you shift to automated solutions, all these costs are eliminated from your system. Maintenance cost of these automated systems is much lesser than employing humans as they are designed to work for a definite period without fail. In case some minor issue arises, it can be mended by maintenance engineers easily.
Higher Output: Industrial automation solution has made it possible to run the units 24x7x365. Same cannot be achieved even after employing hundreds of production workers who work in three shifts to run a unit for 24 hours. This impacts the productivity of the company positively and output gets increased drastically.
Better Quality: Humans, even the most efficient ones, are prone to making errors, especially in mundane tasks. Robots or automated processes, on the other hand, can do routine jobs day in and day out tirelessly with the same efficiency and accuracy resulting in uniform quality of the product. The product manufactured at the start of the day and the end of the day will have absolute uniformity.
Higher Flexibility: Adding any new task to the assembly line or changing the operator requires hours of training when done with humans. Same can be altered easily by just changing the few instructions in the manual when industrial automation solutions are used. This makes the entire process very flexible.
Higher Accuracy: If you follow automated processes when it comes to data collection, it not only reduces your collection costs, but also improves the accuracy drastically. The information flow is constant and you can utilize it to make the right decisions at appropriate times.
Enhanced Safety: There are various processes in manufacturing and production where deployment of humans is not safe. Automating such areas, which are risky and hazardous, helps in protecting your workforce.
Industrial automation solution has numerous benefits and is hence gaining more and more acceptance across the industry. The only disadvantage that one can think of is the initial investment cost of implementing these solutions. Switching from human capital to machines call for some substantial initial investment, but given the benefits it offers, it is definitely worth the cost.
In a nutshell, industrial automation solution is finding widespread acceptance across various verticals in the industry, and its popularity is only expected to grow further in the near future.
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