Over the past years, humans have become increasingly less needed in a number of operations. We used to power a great many things ourselves—working in factories, farming with our bare hands, creating things that only we could. Today, we are much less involved in the details of a vast range of productions.
This decrease in human intervention is known as automation. Machines are now used to complete both simple and complex tasks, reducing the need for our involvement. Industrial automation has been going on for many years now. So what is industrial automation? Where did it come from? Most importantly, is it a positive or negative thing? We’ll take a look at all these topics and address them individually below.
Definition of Industrial Automation
Industrial automation is what occurs when specific tasks that were performed by humans are completed by machines instead. This allows for greater quality, speed, and accuracy. We used to rely on mechanization, manually operating the equipment used to perform a task. Automation changes that human involvement, replacing it with all types of programming and commands, not to mention the new machinery that responds to them.
History of Industrial Automation
Automation can mean a lot of things. If we’re looking at the definition of automation as using machines or equipment, then the industrial automation movement has been slowly happening since as early as the 11th century, when miners used equipment to drain tunnels.
Modern automation began in the 1800s, with the onset of the Industrial Revolution. During this time, machines and automated processes began to replace factory workers, which led to greater productivity and more revenue. When electricity was harnessed in the 1920s, the dynamic in factories shifted again, leading to faster production. By the 1980s, many forms of industrial automation began to take hold in all types of spheres, from retail to production and so on.
Today, there is more industrial automation than ever before, with manufacturers and researchers continuing to advance technology and make scientific breakthroughs that could truly revolutionize how we work, interact with each other, and even how we live our lives.
Pros & Cons of Industrial Automation
Whereas some are excited at the prospects ahead, there are others who have concerns or doubts. Let’s take a closer look at some pros and cons associated with the industrial automation movement.
There are several positive aspects of industrial automation, such as:
- Lower Production Costs: Initial costs might be high in setting up an automatized method of doing things within a company, but it will eliminate recurring costs and truly be worth it in the long run.
- Efficiency: Automating basic, mundane tasks allows employees to focus their time and energy on more complex assignments.
- Greater Safety: You can reduce the potential for injuries in the workplace by having machines do the heavy lifting or work closely with any parts of the operation that could be potentially dangerous.
- Reliability: Automation reduces the likelihood of human error.
- Consistency: Machines aren’t prone to changing day-to-day. They’ll be consistent and provide the same amount of work and results.
Take a look at some of the cons associated with industrial automation:
- High Costs: Making the switch to automation won’t be easy or cheap. It’s possible that the initial costs alone may exceed those of manual operation. Then there are additional costs for repairs and maintenance as well as training.
- Damage to the Job Market: This is likely the largest and most serious concern for many. If managed correctly, the number of job losses will be nominal. In fact, it is typical to see job satisfaction improve significantly when automation is introduced.
- Difficult to Customize: Machines are limited in their range and ability to adapt, making any sort of customization within an automation process unlikely.
Learn More with iMPact Utah
Now that you know what industrial automation is, are you curious to learn more about how it can work for you and your company? Visit our site to discover why and how you can implement industrial automation into your manufacturing company.