Industrial automation is a combination of both control systems (like robots and computers) and information technology
that are used to perform different processes and control machinery. Interactions between these individual systems form
connected automated systems, and can be used in industrial areas to handle tasks more efficiently and productively
than a human might.
Benefits of Industrial Automation
There are several advantages to industrial automation systems, such as an increase in productivity, as machines, unlike humans, do not require breaks and possess no work schedule other than "work all day". Although industrial automation initially costs a large sum of money, these systems, additionally, do not require pay or employee benefits (bonuses, pension coverage, etc.), allowing companies to substantially increase financial savings in future times.
As automated systems are installed with the purpose of removing as much human labor as possible, industrial automation also results in a general increase in product quality, as the possibility of human error is eliminated. In hazardous or unsafe environments, automation is especially effective, substituting human personnel for control systems and machinery unlikely to be damaged in similar ways.
Automated systems can be used to perform various tasks with large amounts of flexibility (robots can be reprogrammed differently, while some tasks with a human operator may require training). In the present, machines are capable of incredibly complex things, capable of handling, packaging, fastening, and joining parts, as well as conducting more data-based actions, such as analyzing and scanning different parts of products through different means.
Three Types of Industrial Automation Systems
In general, there are three basic types of industrial automation systems. The first is fixed (otherwise known as hard) automation, which deals with performing repetitive, typically simple tasks with a focus on increased productivity. Once installed and employed, it is relatively difficult to modify its design or purpose, and is particularly inflexible with varied products.
Secondly, there is programmed automation, where a control program is implemented with physical processes, allowing for products, and, more specifically, operations, to be modified. Control systems work in conjunction with machinery, giving human operators easier access to the properties of the desired product. Despite its increased flexibility as opposed to fixed automation, however, new products, or the reconfiguration of preset operations, require large amounts of time and preparation.
Finally, flexible (or "soft") automation make use of control equipment to enable humans to revise products at a comparably quick time (to other automation designs), granting them the ability to change products through commands and create commodities jointly.