In today's rapidly evolving world, automation has become a driving force behind manufacturing and production processes. With the advent of advanced technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, automation has transformed the way industries operate. From streamlining repetitive tasks to enhancing productivity and safety, industrial automation has proven to be a game-changer.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at its basics, key types, and major benefits in the modern era of manufacturing. Let’s get started!
What is Industrial Automation?
Industrial automation is the use of digital programming to operate machines and equipment, reducing human intervention in decision-making and manual command processes. Today, it has become a crucial part of industrial production due to high-quality products, product reliability, and high-volume production. Automation systems use control systems, computer software, and robots to perform tasks, reducing operator involvement and oversight. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is one of the most favored advanced automation technologies, presenting a plethora of opportunities for businesses.
Advancements and technology integrations are rapidly influencing the market. A recent study by Extrapolate states that the global industrial automation market is projected to experience substantial growth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.8% to accrue $395.09 billion in revenue by 2028.
Common Types of Industrial Automation Systems
The types of industrial automation systems depend on the various cutting-edge technologies used in manufacturing them. Here is a look at some of its common types.
Fixed automation, also known as hard automation, is characterized by its predetermined tasks, uninterrupted workflow, high production volume, and significant initial investment. This type of industrial automation is less likely to undergo modifications or updates. Implementing new products or adjusting production processes can be costly and time-consuming.
Companies like Siemens specialize in producing assembly line systems, conveyor belts, and robotic arms designed for repetitive tasks in industries such as automotive manufacturing, electronics, and food processing.
Programmable automation, commonly linked with batch production, is effective in manufacturing a substantial number of units, varying from a few dozens to thousands. Programmable industrial automation is mainly advantageous for situations involving lower production volumes or shorter product life cycles.
Key players like Rockwell Automation offer programmable logic controllers (PLCs), industrial robots, and CNC machines that find applications in industries such as aerospace, pharmaceuticals, and packaging.
As numerous companies prioritize enhanced uptimes and amplified production levels, it is driving the adoption of flexible automation systems. This type of industrial automation reduces the need for human involvement and minimizes production interruptions while expanding the variety of products manufactured on a single production line. Flexible automation encompasses advanced electromechanical controls and enhanced productivity.
Companies like KUKA provide flexible manufacturing systems (FMS), collaborative robots (cobots), and advanced sensor technologies. The company's offerings, such as ready2_use, the KUKA KR C4, and the KUKA smart PDA, cater to industries requiring adaptability, such as consumer goods, logistics, and medical device manufacturing.
Combining devices and machines into a unified control system establishes a seamless connection between various processes and production lines. Integrated automation presents a comprehensive approach to manufacturing. This includes comprehensive solutions combining supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, IIoT devices, and cloud-based platforms.
Honeywell, a leading supplier of Integrated Automation Systems (IAS) for LNG carriers and vessels, has achieved ISO 17894 certification, ensuring the quality and dependability of its systems in harsh conditions.
Benefits of Industrial Automation
Industrial automation offers numerous benefits that manufacturers, OEMs, and industrial operations can capitalize on to enhance their operational efficiency. Some of them are:
- Improved Worker Safety
Industrial automation reduces repetitive motion and lifting injuries, improving workers' daily lives and allowing them to focus on more complex tasks.
- Increased Productivity
By utilizing monitoring and automated devices, production can be monitored and managed to identify and address issues before they escalate, enabling predictive maintenance and real-time adjustments to inventory management.
- Higher Product Quality
Connected automation devices improve production by enhancing repeatability, fidelity, data collection, and notifications, reducing waste, rework, and increasing profit, while also ensuring quality verification and customer compliance.
- Better Decision Making
Industrial automation tools enable managers to generate accurate models, build stakeholder relationships, and streamline supply chain management. Remote monitoring and asset tracking provide data for informed decision-making and improved stakeholder relationships.
Industrial automation has proven to be a transformative force in the world of manufacturing and production. It has revolutionized traditional processes, increasing efficiency, productivity, and safety while reducing costs and human error. Its benefits are undeniable, and it helps businesses stay competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace.
By integrating advanced technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things, industries have unlocked new levels of customization, scalability, and adaptability. As we look into the future, embracing and investing in industrial automation will be crucial for companies seeking to thrive and succeed in the ever-changing landscape of industry.