Automation – Definition ,Types ,Advantages and Disadvantages

Definition of Automation:

Automation could be defined as the technology dealing with design of machine tools and systems utilising electronics and computer systems to produce the final product at minimum cost, involving minimum labour intervention, producing components of high accuracy and desired tolerances repeatedly without causing rejections.

Automation System 

Completely automated production system would involve automatic machine tools like machining centre to remove material as desired, industrial robots and material handling systems, automated assembly lines, automated inspection systems like machine vision and automated quality control systems, and computer system for planning, data collection, feedback, decision making to take control action and present the desired information on visual display units in a concise and easily assimilitable form.

Types of Automation systems 

Automation systems could be fixed type, programmable type, or flexible type.

In fixed automation, the sequence of processing is fixed for one particular product. Such a system can be used for mass production of a product. Its initial cost is high and any changes in product design can be incorporated with difficulty. If product has to be changed, then lot of modifications, new additions, etc. may be required and to accommodate same would be very costly and time consuming.

types-of-production-automation
types-of-production-automation

In programmable automation (as with numerically controlled machines and robots), it is possible to accommodate the change in sequence of operations for new product by changing the program (set of instructions). Such a system is thus suited for batch production. For new product, not only programs have to be changed, but new tools and fixtures may have to be loaded, and machine settings changed.

In flexible automation systems, no time is lost for production of one product and changing over to new product. Complete information and programs for the products desired to be produced are available in computer system and just code for new product has to be told to computer and changes in all settings, tools, etc. are done automatically. Such systems are best suited for production of large variety of spare parts for large industrial plant/process/complex.

The latest trend in automation is computer integrated manufacturing, i.e., to use computer not only for actual production and manufacturing, but also be design the product, carry out complete planning for manufacture, perform all business related functions like inventory of raw materials, and other stocks, actual sales, sales forecast, orders in hand, maintenance needs of various machine tools.

Advantages of Automation:

The advantages of automation are:

(i) Increased productivity (greater output per hour of labour input),

(ii) Improved product quality,

(iii) Reduction of scrap (particularly beneficial for costly raw material),

(iv) More safety (due to operator taking the supervisory role instead of active and direct physical participation),

(v) Reduced manufacturing lead time,

(vi) Reduction of in-process inventory, etc.

It is always advantageous to automate monotonous and hazardous jobs. With more and more automation, human errors are totally eliminated and product quality improved and rejects minimised, prices reduced and ultimately standard of living of people increased.

Automation Disadvantages

Less versatility – by having a machine that can perform a certain task limits to the flexibility and variety of tasks that an employee could do.
More pollution different types of machines operate using motor which may require gases or chemicals in order to operate. This can cause an increase in pollution in the workplace.
Large initial investment – automated machines can be one of the most costly operating costs for a company. With automated machines running anywhere between thousands and millions of dollars depending on the type and degree of automation.
Increase in unemployment – by increasing the amount of automation, there are less employees required causing high unemployment rates.
Unpredictable costs – there can be several unpredictable costs that may exceed the actual cost saved by the automation itself. Some of these costs could include research and development costs of automating a process, preventative maintenance costs, and the cost of training employees to operate automated machines.

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