In today’s industries, there’s increased demand for high-quality products and services and consistently with a competitive price and product. In addressing these challenges, many industries consider creating different product designs and integrating manufacturing methods by using automated machines and devices. They decide to make the production of their products and the provision of services into automation.
Therefore, industrial automation involves the use of technology by using a controlled system and device such as a robot or computer software. Industrial automation enables the use of automatic operations without the need or minimal human intervention.
Some smart devices in automated industries control processes and have communication capabilities like Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs)
Benefits of Industrial Automation
The incorporation of industrial automation can provide a ton of benefits to a production process. Some of the benefits include:
1- To Increase Productivity
The automation of the factory, manufacturing or process plant improves the rate of production. It enables the production of goods in large quantities reducing the assembly time of each product with good quality. It, therefore, provides a more prodigious output of a given input than if it could have been done manually by human beings.
2- Raises Safety Levels
There’s increased safety levels with the application of industrial automation. It reduces the risks that could have been present in dangerous places of work. Robots are usually employed to handle hazardous working conditions.
3- Increased Flexibility
Introduction of new products requires training for a human operator. However, with the introduction of automatic machines or robots, little input is needed. They only need to be programmed to do the new task.
4- High Information Accuracy
Introducing automation systems improve data collection. Data collected is very accurate, and there’s a reduced cost of collection. They eliminate human errors that occur whenever doing some production calculations. This information helps in the decision-making process when determining the areas to reduce wastes and those that need improvement.
5- Improved Quality
Industrial automation alleviates human errors. Unlike humans, machines do not get tired. Once they are programmed, they perform tasks with the same uniform quality in all stages at all times.
6- Optimum Operation Cost
Integration of different processes with automated machines reduces effort and cycle times. Therefore it eradicates the need for human labor. Automation also reduces investment in employees.
7- Reduction of Routine Checks
Industrial automation lessens the need for routine checks of production processes at different production levels manually. With the introduction of automation technologies, automatically adjusted operations are fixed to some variables or values by using a closed-loop control technique.
Industrial Automation Systems
With many devices working concurrently with automation technologies, they present a complex system. There are three categories of industrial automation systems:
- Fixed or Hard Automation Systems
- Programmable Automation
- Flexible or Soft Automation
1- Fixed or Hard Automation Systems
A Fixed or hard automation system is an automation system employed for repetitive and fixed operations for high levels of production. It uses a piece of special dedicated equipment to automate the sequence. When applied, changing the product design becomes hard thus can’t provide variation in products. Fixed automation systems can be found in conveyors, distilled processes and paint shops.
2- Programmable Automation
The use of programmable automation is within a class of products during operation. An input of modification of the program is used to change the automation equipment. This system is best suitable in batch production processes of medium to high volume.
For Example : Programmable automation is found in paper mills, steel rolling mills, industrial robots, and many others.
3- Flexible or Soft Automation
Flexible or soft automation system provides for flexibility in changing the product design. It only needs an input of commands by a human operator allowing manufacturers to produce a range of products in a combined process rather than separate.
Examples: These automation systems are found in the automobiles, automatic guided vehicles and versatile CNC machines.