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Automation refers to the use of technology and computerized systems to perform tasks that were previously done manually by humans. Automation has been rapidly growing in various industries and has revolutionized the way work is done. In this article, we will discuss the benefits and challenges of automation.
Benefits of Automation:
- Increased efficiency: Automation reduces the time and effort required to perform tasks. This leads to an increase in productivity and efficiency, which can lead to cost savings.
- Improved quality: Automation can perform tasks with a high degree of precision and accuracy, leading to improved quality of products and services.
- Reduced labor costs: Automation can replace manual labor, leading to reduced labor costs and increased profitability.
- Increased safety: Automation can perform dangerous tasks, reducing the risk of injury or accidents to humans.
- Improved data collection and analysis: Automation can collect and analyze large amounts of data quickly and accurately, leading to better decision-making.
Challenges of Automation:
- Cost: Automation can be expensive to implement, and the initial investment may be significant.
- Job loss: Automation can replace manual labor, leading to job loss for some workers.
- Technical issues: Automation systems can be complex, and technical issues can arise, leading to downtime and reduced productivity.
- Training: Workers may require training to operate and maintain automation systems.
- Security: Automation systems can be vulnerable to cyber attacks, leading to the loss of sensitive information and disruption of operations.
In conclusion, automation has numerous benefits, including increased efficiency, improved quality, reduced labor costs, increased safety, and improved data collection and analysis. However, automation also poses several challenges, including cost, job loss, technical issues, training, and security. Therefore, it is essential to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of automation before implementing it in any industry or organization.
Automation or automatic control is the use of various control systems for operating equipment such as machinery, processes in factories, boilers and heat treating ovens, switching on telephone networks, steering and stabilization of ships, aircraft and other applications and vehicles with minimal or reduced human intervention. Some processes have been completely automated.
The biggest benefit of automation is that it saves labour; however, it is also used to save energy and materials and to improve quality, accuracy and precision.
The term automation, inspired by the earlier word automatic (coming from automaton), was not widely used before 1947, when Ford established an automation department. It was during this time that industry was rapidly adopting feedback controllers, which were introduced in the 1930s. Automation has been achieved by various means including mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical, electronic devices and computers, usually in combination. Complicated systems, such as modern factories, airplanes and ships typically use all these combined techniques.
Type of Automation
Automation of production systems can be classified into three basic types:
- Fixed automation (Hard Automation)
- Programmable automation (Soft Automation)
- Flexible automation.
Fixed automation (Hard automation):
Fixed automation refers to the use of special purpose equipment to automate a fixed sequence of processing or assembly operations. Each of the operation in the sequence is usually simple, involving perhaps a plain linear or rotational motion or an uncomplicated combination of two. It is relatively difficult to accommodate changes in the product design. This is called hard automation.
- Low unit cost
- Automated material handling
- High production rate.
- High initial Investment
- Relatively inflexible in accommodating product changes.
In programmable automation, the production equipment is designed with the capability to change the sequence of operations to accommodate different product configurations. The operation sequence is controlled by a program, which is a set of instructions coded. So that they can be read and interpreted by the system. New programs can be prepared and entered into the equipment to produce new products.
- Flexible to deal with design variations.
- Suitable for batch production.
- High investment in general purpose equipment
- Lower production rate than fixed automation.
Example: Numerical controlled machine tools, industrial robots and programmable logic controller.
Fixed Automation: (Soft automation):
Flexible automation is an extension of programmable automation. A flexible automation system is capable of producing a variety of parts with virtually no time lost for changeovers from one part style to the next. There is no lost production time while reprogramming the system and altering the physical set up.
- Continuous production of variable mixtures of product.
- Flexible to deal with product design variation.
- Medium production rate
- High investment.
- High ‘unit cost relative to fixed automation.
Application Of automation
- Manufacturing companies in virtually every industry are achieving rapid increases in productivity by taking advantage of automation technologies. When one thinks of automation in manufacturing, robots usually come to mind. The automotive industry was the early adopter ofrobotics, using these automated machines for material handling, processing operations, and assembly and inspection. Donald A. Vincent, executive vice president, Robotic Industries Association, predicts a greater use of robots for assembly, paint systems, final trim, and parts transfer will be seen in the near future.
- Vincent expects other industries to heavily invest in robotics as well. Industries such as theelectronics industry, with its need for mass customization of electronic goods, the miniaturization of electronics goods and their internal components, and the re-standardization of the semiconductor industry, which, he says, will completely retool itself by 2004. Robotics will continue to expand into the food and beverage industry where they will perform such tasks as packaging, palletizing, and filling; as well as the aerospace, appliance, and non-manufacturing markets.
- One can break down automation in production into basically three categories: fixed automation, programmable automation, and flexible automation. The automotive industry primarily uses fixed automation. Also known as “hard automation,” this refers to an automated production facility in which the sequence of processing operations is fixed by the equipment layout. A good example of this would be an automated production line where a series of workstations are connected by a transfer system to move parts between the stations. What starts as a piece of sheetmetal in the beginning of the process, becomes a car at the end.
- Programmable automation is a form of automation for producing products in batches. The products are made in batch quantities ranging from several dozen to several thousand units at a time. For each new batch, the production equipment must be reprogrammed and changed over to accommodate the new product style.
- Flexible automation is an extension of programmable automation. Here, the variety of products is sufficiently limited so that the changeover of the equipment can be done very quickly and automatically. The reprogramming of the equipment in flexible automation is done off-line; that is, the programming is accomplished at a computer terminal without using the production equipment itself.
- Computer numerical control (CNC) is a form of programmable automation in which a machine is controlled by numbers (and other symbols) that have been coded into a computer. The program is actuated from the computer’s memory. The machine tool industry was the first to use numerical control to control the position of a cutting tool relative to the work part being machined. The CNC part program represents the set of machining instructions for the particular part, while the coded numbers in the sequenced program specifies x-y-z coordinates in a Cartesian axis system, defining the various positions of the cutting tool in relation to the work part.
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