Currently, there is a notable change in the manufacturing and the nature of the workforce. All these owes to the fact that industrial automation is increasingly taking over several processes. Governments and business enterprises use automation since it has numerous benefits.

In this write-up, we will break down the right information to aid your understanding of industrial automation issues. Automation can be the weapon of choice if you are struggling for efficiency.

As a manufacturer, you can easily integrate automation and enjoy a good return on investment (ROI). Careful implementation of the entire concept will see your business surge in profits and efficiency. Let’s get started.

What is Industrial Automation?

What is Industrial Automation? 

Industrial automation is a broad term that will refer to various processes. They include several control devices like PCs and DC, which control multiple industrial operations without human interventions.

The automation process involves using advanced control strategies like cascade controls and PLC sensors. Again, it utilizes computing systems as well as human-machine interface (HMI) systems.

You can perfectly achieve industrial automation by numerous ways being electronic, mechanical, electrical, pneumatic, hydraulic, and computers. Nowadays, state-of-art factories, airplanes, ships will combine such techniques.

Industrial Automation in Manufacturing

The entire concept simplifies the manufacturing process leaving almost entirely everything to the robots. These industrial robots have high computing capabilities to increase the degree of operation.

However, you can only limit such arrangements to a highly structured environment. Most importantly, you will still need human input for the process to be successful. Since the process is highly specialized, it may not be the best bet for small and medium industries. They perfectly suit large production-oriented manufacturers.

The process of automation in manufacturing depends on software and computers in the optimization, automation, and integration of various manufacturing components systems.

How Industrial Automation Works? 

How Industrial Automation Works?

The process of industrial automation began in the early 20th century. The basic concepts by then were assembly lines. The process evolved until the emergence of robots, which will do human work.

The automation process changed the manufacturing landscape enabling machines to do a more significant part with little human assistance. There are multiple automation fields like pharmaceuticals, medicine, automotive world, construction, and more.

The automation process has a robotic system and PLC (programmable logic controller) at its core. Currently, industrial automation involves heavy machinery, advanced equipment, control rooms, and control panels.

A perfect example of industrial automation is the Ford Company. In the beginning, it could make vehicles by hand, which is not the case to date. The automation process made it to manufacture several cars with the help of machines with better quality and repeatability.

Types of Industrial Automation

We can classify Industrial automation in four different categories. You can differentiate them by the level of integration and flexibility. They are as follows:

a) Fixed Automation

It involves a sequence of operations which undergoes through a configuration of fixed equipment. It needs dedicated equipment to enable high volume operation. Example of such processes is machine transfer, distilled process, and automated assembly lines.

b) Programmable Automation

By changing the program, you will be altering the sequence of operation. You can still get better results by adding a new program into programmable devices meant for new products. You can apply such a process in batch processes, industrial robots, and steel rolling mills.

c) Flexible Automation

It happens to be a perfect extension of the previous programmable automation. You will encounter greater flexibility when dealing with program design variations. The operator can alter the sequence of the process by giving a command in the form of codes.

The lower level equipment will get instructions for operating at the field level without compromising on production time. Such type of automation is ideal in the automatic guided vehicle and multipurpose CNC machines, among others.

d) Integrated Automation

It is where the entire machine remains completely automated under computer control. In other words, the robots take charge of every equipment. You can apply this process in computer integrated manufacturing systems.

Industrial Automation Equipment

There is various automation equipment that makes the entire process a success. They are as follows:

Actuators and Sensors

The role of a sensor is to sense different process variables and later convert them into optical or electrical signals. Such sensors include velocity, pressure, flow, temperature, and more.

Actuators play a crucial role in converting electrical signals into mechanical means and assisting in gaining control of the entire process.

Interestingly, these sensors and actuators have the potential to communicate with the field communication buses that are under the control of smart devices.

Human Machine Interface (HMI)

The Human Machine Interface to various facilities you will interact with while actualizing industrial automation. They include logging your results in the database, displaying information on the computer screen, and giving alarm signals.

Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC)

We also refer to the PLC as industrial computers that you can program to do particular control functions. It may include a processor or a CPU, the I/O modules whenever digital or analog. They will connect different input or output devices and other relay modules.

Above all, the convectional PC and the PLC feature a dedicated software that you can use in programming the control strategy.

Communication System

In certain industrial situations, various actuators, sensors, and other control devices will be under geographical distribution. However, they will interact with one another with the help of various data buses.

When it comes to industrial automation, you will involve other types of data buses.

They are; the field bus, the process bus, and the factory bus. The field bus will be facilitating interaction between field instruments and other control devices.

The process bus will connect the supervising level computers to other control devices like PLCs.

On the other hand, the factory bus will connect the organization’s higher level to the supervising level. Here, the system will use different protocols of communications like Profibus or RS-485.

Career Opportunities in Industrial Automation

Industrial automation indeed reduces human resources. That alone does not imply that all jobs will diminish. Interestingly, other job opportunities have been cropping up. Here are some of the work opportunities that come along this process:

· Engineering

Engineering has been improving due to the advancement of technology. As such, it opens up to a sea of opportunities for the designer who wants to venture into automation based engineering.

The jobs in such a field tend to vary. Most importantly, they will focus on working with robotics and controls to get the solution to modern problems.

· IT Tech and Service

Information Technology oriented companies have been growing at a rapid pace. Technology comes with its challenges promoting someone to fix it always. IT support will play a crucial role in the repair and maintenance of computers or robotics.

On the same note, you can still open your company and serve your clients in a related field. The good news is; you will have no ceiling as you operate your company.

· Programming

Programming can be an ideal career choice for several designers. In our case, we will need personnel to robotics and PLC systems. You can get the right knowledge on the same and serve various clients.

· Sales (B2B)

You will need a sales engineer to market and sell the product. For instance, industrial automation leads to improved sales involving robotics to major companies around the world.

The Emergence of cobots

The Emergence of cobots

Indeed, a cobot is an intricate, collaborative machine that relives the robots of their limits. It lets the human work alongside cobot counterparts. They will collaborate with human workers rather than replacing their work.

For example, while operating the automation industry, the cobot can tighten the bolt as the human counterpart places the tool in front of it. Another example is the biscuit factory. The cobot can package the biscuits while the human worker eliminates the burnt ones.

The cobots will eliminate at least 80% of downtime, making significant productivity gains. Some SMEs are also adopting cobots in critical functions and use the human workforce to feed the information. The cobots will have the following benefits to the users:

1. Safety monitoring stopping

The robot has sensors to make it updated about its surroundings and the human being surrounding it. If it gets any abstraction on its path, it will automatically shut down.

One perfect example is when performing an operation that involves the removal of the component from the chunk. The cobot may cease its activity when the human hand finds its way in its proximity.

2. Speed Monitoring

It is also an extension of safety monitoring. The only difference is that sensors will detect human immediacy and lower operating speeds instead of entirely stopping the process.

3. Power Limiting

Such a function enables the cobot to understand the amount of power and force that a human can tolerate. As they encounter an obstacle, they will cease the activity. The energy of the underlying collision will be under maximum levels.

4. Navigation and Guidance

The cobots have an end of the arm device that is pressure sensitive. It will enable the robot to learn, holding an object, and use it in its operations without damaging it. You can use hand-guided cobots in delicate production lines.

Integrating Automation Solutions

Before you integrate any automation solution, you should note that not every solution will have similar requirements.

For instance, you may be looking for the difference between convectional and collaborative robots. Each type will require varying considerations of safety requirements, floor space, and pieces of training.

Before the manufacturer integrates the robot, there must perform a safety and risk analysis. While using conventional robots, you will isolate them from the personnel inside the gate. One typical example of such robots is the ones in the automotive industry. There is limited interaction between humans and robots.

One the other hand, while integrating collaborative robots, you must also perform risk and safety analysis to determine its reliability. |Some of the factors that determine the viability of the collaborative robots are the size, effectors, and the payload. Furthermore, you must also know the collision sensitivity and maximum velocity.

Structure of Industrial Automation

Such a structure will be explaining different levels of operations. They include the following:

Sensor level: We can still refer to this level as the process layer. It will involve actuators and sensors to get the process values in a periodical or continuous manner. We also term these are arms as part of the industrial process. The involved instruments are smart or pneumatic ones.

Automation control level: Such a process involves industrial control devices such as DCs, PLCs, or PCs. The level uses various embedded processors.

Supervision level (SCADA level): It receives a bunch of channel information, and then store the same data in the database system. It acquires data from different control devices and displays them on the Human Machine Interface (HMI). It will produce an alarm to show levels of control variables and the processes.

It uses special software when accessing data and communications protocols while interacting with field devices.

How to start industrial automation

How to start industrial automation

You should leverage technology and make sure your company stays services the heat of completion. It happens if you embrace the right decisions toward implementing industrial automation. You can follow the following tips as you begin the industrial automation in your company.

Technology Planning

As you plan for technology, you should focus on three core areas: operations, workforce, and customers. You must understand who will come first and answer the argument behind it. The customer-based technology should involve both in-store and online system through third parties and partners. It also happens through wholesalers and distributors.

You must explore technology via such paths in depths. You should understand how the customer will get touched by your brands, services, and products. You can still involve social media as a marketing pull method.

You will need to apply technology throughout the supply chain as you explore certain areas that you need to improve and automate. You can still work through a technological partner as you make technological decisions.

Exploring Automation

Your business should endeavor to leverage industrial automation technology. It may include internets of things, wearables, mobile devices, or robotics. You can involve them in an automatic supply chain to a large extend. As such, it will still improve the delivery of services and goods to the clients.

You should explore IoT throughout your company for better returns. You should develop ecosystem maps that include supplier channels, touchpoints, core systems, or applications.

Create Content

The content can manifest in the form of video, intelligent data, and information. The company should strive to gather information concerning the process, production, stores, and customers. You can use it to analyze and use the same data reasonably.

You will be collecting data on the improvement of business processes. You should focus on the content that will enhance the customer experience. It should include facts on consumer services and products.

Evaluation

It is vital to have periodic evaluations and regular check-ins to discover what is working and what may not. Such actions will provide direct improvements to your business. As you discover certain areas that may not be working efficiently, you can intervene early and make some considerable adjustments.

Since technology is ever-changing, competition is the driving force to flow with the changes. It will be useless to stay with a particular plan for a year without experiencing the expected results.

Adopting IoT in the Business

If you fail to implement the IoT in your business, you will not withstand the heat of competition. It may sound harsh, yes, but the truth is technology will restore different results when used accurately and efficiently.

Industries that use Industrial Automation

Several industries do benefit from various industrial automation processes. They utilize the automation process to improve the manufacturing of various products in different disciplines like:

a) Manufacturing

Multiple manufacturing companies employ industrial automation in various ways. They take advantage of technology to create or assemble the product. Furthermore, they use it to monitor maintenance tasks and managing inventory levels.

b) Oil and Gas drilling

Oil and gas drilling involves offshore stations or remote locations. As a result, industrial automation becomes useful in the entire process. The use of sensors and other monitoring equipment will make your work uncomplicated. They will eliminate potentially risky trips for the technicians.

c) Steel Mills

The steel industries utilize automation technology to boost the processes of steel production. The technology has an integrated system to manage and control the whole steel.

d) Transportation

You can apply industrial automation in the travel industry. The greatest implementers of this technology are the airline industry, which uses autopilot controls on various commercial jets. There is an advancement in making self-operating vehicles that you can use personally or for commercial purposes.

e) Distribution

Once the products come out and ready for shipping, the distribution industry becomes active. Consequently, industrial automation will be the way in the implementation of solutions in the distribution field. You will use it to manage the shipment and delivery of various products quickly.

The Future of automation on industries

Industrial Automation in manufacturing has a bright future. They have robots that are multi-functional to enable the same machine for different uses. Most of the capabilities that they have to mimic the human workers.

The future machine will have the potential to make decisions and work independently. Furthermore, they will still have self-diagnostic and the capability to make predictive maintenance.

The need for automated industry

1. It reduces manual and periodic manual checking

The beneficiary of such technology will not have to bother to perform periodic checks to oversee the process. The motivating reason is that the automatic working condition will take care of such scenarios. In the long run, the user will have more time to relax.

2. It increases productivity

By automating the manufacturing processes, it implies that the rate of production will increase. The machine will produce a higher output. Since there is less downtime, you can maximize time and manufacture more products contrary to other conventional methods.

3. It improves the quality of the products

Putting human efforts alone will not produce perfect product quality since you may not meet all the specifications. By using automation equipment, you can get uniform and reliable product quality. The process involves using hardware control devices that perform duties in real-time.

4. It increases flexibility

You can involve the automation equipment to handle various complex processes quickly. The manufacturing processes will also change the role of operators to the supervisory one. For that matter, they are flexible to handle any manufacturing functions on the way. You only need to program the data and leave it all for the machines to execute.

5. High safety

You can adopt automation of industry to keep the production lines to remain safe for the operators. They do so by deploying robots to access remote and hazardous conditions. As an operator, you will remain safe without any threat of accidents.

Limitation of Industrial Automation

High Initial Costs

Initial investment involves the costs of making an automated production line. It has

considerable costs in the training of the employees for them to effectively handle the sophisticated equipment.

Loss of Employment

As you implement the industrial automation process in your business, some employees may lose their jobs. You may only require a few to supervise the line.

In conclusion

Many organizations around the world are accepting industrial automation due to their underlying benefits. The most remarkable ones are high production and increase safety. You will need to have proper skills for you to run the associated processes with ease.

Most importantly, we need to adopt this technology to avoiding drowning in the sea of competition. As the companies implement the automation process, they will see a surge in production volume and a high return on investment.

Technology is dynamic, and you have to implement the latest one for you to get improved services. After all, you need to adopt the process and enjoy the benefits.

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