The concept of substituting the work of a human being through the usage of one or many control systems is known as industrial automation. These control systems can be anything ranging from computers or robots and other information technologies. They are used for the management of the numerous processes and machineries/hardware in the industry. This step comes after the first step of mechanization in terms of total industrialization.
The concept of automation was adopted so as to generate significant increment in the overall productivity of the industry as machines do not tire and work for 24 hours, contrary to human labor. It was also adopted so that with the increase in productivity, the costs of manual labor was significantly decreased. But as time went by and trends evolved, attention has shifted towards maximum contribution in terms of increased quality and flexibility in manufacturing.
Industrial automation causes reduced operational costs as there is no more need of medicals, paid leaves and vacations. Other additional costs are also waived off including bonuses, pension and coverage. The most important factor is that there’s no need of monthly investments in salaries. Also the maintenance costs are very low as the hardware equipment is quite reliable and doesn’t need fixing frequently.
The other benefits are as described below.
Even now numerous organizations pay hundreds of employees who work in a three-shifts plan so that the whole plant functions for the maximum duration of the day. But another fact is that when it is vacation or maintenance time, the plant needs to shut down for the specified duration. Here is where industrial automation comes in, as it enables the organization’s plant to function non-stop 24/7 throughout the year. This generates a massive increase in the overall productivity.
Higher standards of quality are maintained as there are no errors as in case of human labor and also there is no element of fatigue or tiredness which is also a defining factor. This ensures that a consistent and uniform quality standard is established.
Whenever a new functionality needs to be added, a human operator needs to be first adequately trained, but this is not the case in computers and robots which can be programmed to follow any set of instructions. This results in higher flexibility of the manufacturing system.
A substantially high accuracy in terms of information is attained with automation. This means that the organization can now collect crucial production data, data precision is improved and the costs for collecting data are also minimized. This ensures that the management informed decisions in terms of improvement of processes and waste reduction.
Higher safety levels are also ensured as now humans do not have to work in a hazardous environment, with robots taking their place.
The one major disadvantage of switching to automation from a current human production line is that the initial investment is very costly. There are also some costs associated with the training of employees with the new equipment.