Industrial automation system: What is it? Types, and benefits

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What is an automation system?

The basic definition of industrial automation can be described as a set of computerized systems which are found in a manufacturing facility. These systems can be seen as a way to reduce human labor and automate mundane, mechanical, and repetitive tasks. The automation systems in the industry have evolved over time. As a result, different industrial automation systems are available for use today. The main goal of these systems is to make the processes in industries more efficient and save costs by minimizing human errors.

With the rise of modernization and technological advances, almost every industry is evolving, and the manufacturing industry is not far behind. This sector has seen large-scale adoption of these automation systems to increase effectiveness and productivity in facilities. In fact, the adoption is such that the industrial automation industry has seen unprecedented growth over the last decade. As per the data released by fortune business Insights [1], the global industrial automation market is projected to grow to a staggering $296.70 billion by 2026.

These numbers show real promise for the future of the industrial automation sector. However, many firms are still determining if this technological advancement is right for them. Therefore, in order to answer and clarify all doubts related to industrial automation and its undisputed benefits, we will highlight some of the most prominent types of industrial automation systems found in various manufacturing facilities.

What is system automation?

System automation refers to the use of technology to control and operate processes without human intervention. It integrates software, hardware, and other components to perform specific tasks, improving efficiency, reliability, and accuracy. Automation can be applied to various industries, from manufacturing to IT, streamlining operations and reducing manual effort.

Types of industrial automation systems

Fixed automation

A fixed automation system is also known as hardwired automation. This type of industrial automation is used for high-volume production, repetitive tasks, and products with a long-life cycle. The system includes all active components (hardware) and passive components (software). With fixed automation, the application process is mostly simple and involves an assembly dictated by programmed commands. Though it is tricky to accommodate changes in the product design with this type of automation, it does aid in cutting time and labour costs by automating mechanical tasks.

Examples of fixed automation systems:

  • Programmable Logic Controller[2] (PLC) based systems
  • Human Machine Interface (HMI), which provides operators with information about the current state of the process through display screens

Flexible automation

A flexible automation system is the most commonly used form of industrial automation. It utilizes programmable logic controllers (PLCs), which are electronic devices that can be programmed to automate a wide range of control tasks in manufacturing, mining, utilities, and other industries. Flexible automation typically uses a network topology with one or more primary controllers communicating with several units (also called remote terminal units). The primary controller directs the operation of each unit to perform specific tasks. For example, if you want your robot arm to move left instead of right at any given moment during its operation cycle: You can use a PLC to achieve this result by sending signals over its network wiring back to the PLC attached directly to your robot arm’s motherboard. Also addressed as soft automation, flexible automation allows for a more flexible production process.

Some examples of manufacturing types that are compatible with flexible automation include batch process manufacturing, job shop manufacturing, discrete manufacturing etc. Some of the most common examples of this type of automation include automatic guided vehicles, automobiles, and CNC machinery.

Programmable automation

This type of industrial automation system is best for batch production, wherein the volume of production is medium to high. However, incorporating new configurations in this type of automation takes a lot of work. Therefore, new products and reconfiguration of operations require a lengthy process and a long setup. The control programme can be reprogrammed for each batch based on the instructions provided and the necessary processing tasks and sequencing. This process takes time because, in most cases, the equipment must be reconfigured from batch to batch. Some examples of programmable automation systems include computer numerical controlled machinery, programmable logic controllers, and industrial robots.

Benefits of an industrial automation system

The various technologies used in industrial automation have evolved over the years thanks to the advancement of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). IIoT has opened many avenues for firms to leverage the benefits of automation solutions. In this section, we have outlined some of the most basic advantages of automation solutions:

Enhanced quality

Automation in the industrial sector leads to improved quality of products which are much less prone to errors made by human operators. The spot-on precision provided by automation technology is unmatched regarding the quality of products. In addition, it results in higher consistency throughout the production batches.

Better efficiency and higher output

Automation robotics have much higher output value, and their working pace is much higher than human operators. Moreover, robots are capable of working 24/7, which increases their production time.

Cost efficient

It is obvious that the cost of employing robots to perform the same functions as human labour will cost much less comparatively. The only expenses after the initial cost of a robot are upkeep and the energy required during execution. Compared to operator salaries and benefits, the cost savings accumulate over time. Furthermore, robots optimize the process and improve quality, resulting in less waste and even more cost savings.

Safer operation

Employing robotics ensures operator safety as well. Industrial automation eliminates the need for workers to perform unsafe tasks such as working around hazardous chemicals, picking up heavy objects, working in unpleasant atmospheres, etc.

Get better outputs with industrial automation from Schneider Electric

In conclusion, industrial automation provides plenty of benefits for the user. It comes in several types to fit the needs of various requirements of manufacturing industries. Therefore, automation products are important because they reduce production costs while improving product quality, resulting in higher profits. At Schneider Electric, we help our clients achieve reduced costs, increased productivity, and improved equipment supervision through Industrial automation.

We offer our clientele programmable relays and motion controllers for simple as well as complex process systems. In addition, we offer TeSys motor controls, machine safety, Triconex, ClimaSys DT, Altivar, Harmony push buttons and signalling devices, universal enclosures, and the Modicon M580 for emergency handling, data acquisition etc. With Industrial automation, we can help vastly improve the quality and flexibility of your company’s manufacturing process, thereby increasing your company’s efficiency and productivity.

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