What is Automation?

What is Automation?

During the Industrial Revolution, Machines had reduced human efforts tremendously and a new word Mechanization took place. Mechanization means to replace the human effort with the help of machines.
Automation is the advancement of mechanization which further reduces the human effort that being used in operating the machines by making machines almost self-operating.   
  
Automation

Need for Automation

To understand the need for automation we have to deal with the history of automation. The word Automation has its origin in western countries like it was first used by D.S Harder  at Ford Motor Company in the 1950s.
At that time Western Countries were facing the labour shortage as well as high labour cost problems.
To mitigate at least these two major problems with the help of technology, the Automation system comes into existence.
Other reasons for adopting Automation as a solution are:-
  • To enhance labour productivity, 
  • To improve Product quality
  • To introduce a safe environment for the workers
  • To reduce the manufacturing lead time(MLT) and many more.

What is Automation?

The literal meaning of Automation is to make a machine self-operating. This is done with the help of electrical, electronic, and computer-based technology.
Thus, Automation may be defined as 
“The application of electrical, electronic, and computer-based technology to make a machine/process self-operating to reduce the human effort”.
From the above definition, it is clear that the basic objective of automation is to reduce the human effort, quantitatively as well as qualitatively, at its minimum level. According to the degree of automation, a machine may be called Semi-automated or fully automated.

Examples:-

  • Automated Machine tools like NC, CNC, DNC, etc.
  • Automated transfer line & automated assembly lines.
  • Automated material handling & storage systems.
  • Industrial robots & many more. 

Procedure for Automation

To automate any machine/process, there are so many different approaches available. Out of these approaches, the simplest and the most commonly used approach is the USA principle which consists of the three steps named as Understand – Simplify – Automate
According to the USA principle, A machine /process has to go through these three steps, that’s too in a logical sequence, for being automated.
Let’s discuss these steps individually.
 
Understand:- This step is fully dedicated to understanding the working of the machine/process which has to be automated.
 
Simplify:- This is the second step towards automation. In this step, the entire process is divided into a number of the sub-processes to make the complex process quite simple. All those sub-processes which seem unnecessary are tended to eliminated.  
 
Automate:- The final step in the USA principle is to automate all the simplified sub-processes and then integrate them.
 
 

Type of Automation

An Automation system may be classified into at least two categories based on flexibility. These categories are as follow:-
 

Hard Automation:- This is also known as Fixed Automation.

This type of automation system is best suitable for the mass production system where all the machines/processes are laid down in a fixed sequence. The machines used in this system are of the special-purpose machines which are dedicated to performing a specific task with great efficiency.
 
Example:- Automated assembly lines. 
 
 
Soft Automation:- Soft Automation is further categorized into two groups:-  
  • Programmable Automation

This type of automation system is best suitable for the batch production system where all the machines/processes are grouped according to their use. Each machine can perform several tasks. The machines used in this system are of general-purpose machines that can change the sequence of operations to adapt to the changes in product design. A part program is all responsible for the change of the sequence of the operations.

A new part program is to be inserted into the machine to prepare the machine for the new product design. 
Example:- CNC machines, DNC machines, etc.
  • Flexible Automation
This type of automation is best suitable for the job production system. Flexible automation is sometimes known as the extension of the programmable automation system as it also used the general-purpose machines. A flexible automation system can produce a variety of products with almost no change over time.
Example:- Flexible manufacturing system.
 

Level of Automation

To apply automation in any company one has to define the level of automation according to their requirement (whether they want a fully automated system or semi-automated system). There are at least five levels of automation.
  • Component Level
  • Machine Level
  • Manufacturing Cell Level
  • Plant Level
  • Enterprise Level

To know more about level of automation Click here

Advantages

 The proper implementation of automation in an Industry offers the following advantages over the conventional system.
  • The productivity of the system gets improved.
  • Superior product quality is achieved.
  • MLT gets reduced mainly due to the reduction in the non-productive time.
  • The cost of the product also reduced.
  • The capability to meet the customized requirements also increased. 

Disadvantages

Along with a lot of advantages, An automated system also offers certain limitations/disadvantages. These areas follow:-
  • High Initial investment
  • High Maintainance Cost
  • High Unemployment rate
  • Skilled labour requirements

Future scope

Automation, which was solely developed to make the machine/process self-operating especially in manufacturing, is now being applied in almost every sector (like banking, hospitalities, medical field, etc.) with great operational efficiency.          
 
 

This is all about  Automation – An Introduction

Hope you find it useful.

 

Happy learning

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