Industrial Automation Advantages and disadvantages

What is Industrial Automation?

Automation is the use of control systems (such as numerical control, programmable logic control, and other industrial control systems), in concert with other applications of information technology (such as computer-aided technologies [CAD, CAM, CAx]), to control industrial machinery and processes, reducing the need for human intervention.

In the scope of industrialization, automation is a step beyond mechanization by use of robotic devices to complete manufacturing tasks. Whereas mechanization provided human operators with machinery to assist them with the physical requirements of work, automation greatly reduces the need for human sensory and mental requirements as well. Processes and systems can also be automated.

In this day and age of computers, industrial automation is becoming increasingly important in the manufacturing process because computerized or robotic machines are capable of handling repetitive tasks quickly and efficiently. Machines used in industrial automation are also capable of completing mundane tasks that are not desirable to workers. In addition, the company can save money because it does not need to pay for expensive benefits for this specialized machinery. There are both pros and cons for a company when it comes to industrial automation.

On the plus side, with soaring healthcare costs, paid days off, vacation time, and other costly employee benefits, companies can save money with industrial automation. While robotic machinery can initially be extremely expensive, the loss of monthly wages for production workers leads to incredible savings for the company. While machinery used for industrial automation can break down, it does not happen often. If it does, only a handful of maintenance or computer engineers are needed to handle repairs and get lines running smoothly again.

In addition, many plants hire dozens of production workers for a variety of shifts and need to close on certain days. Industrial automation, however, allows a company to run the plant twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, without paying overtime. This fact alone can add up to significant savings.

A company that employs forty-eight factory workers on three different shifts and closes on weekends, for example, can save thousands of dollars with industrial automation. This is particularly true if weekend work is necessary, which means overtime pay of time and a half must be paid for Saturday work and double-time for Sunday. This equates to an additional twelve hours of pay per employee. Of course, life insurance, 401K benefits, dental insurance, health insurance, pension coverage, and disability also contribute to the expense.

Industrial automation can eliminate the need for all forty-eight jobs. The robotic machinery used for industrial automation may only involve a monthly payment until the machinery is paid for, a couple technicians to keep the robotic machinery running, and electricity costs. Unfortunately for workers, industrial automation can eliminate thousands of jobs. As the workforce decreases and the cost of living increases, many families struggle to make ends meet as their jobs are replaced by high-tech machines.

Advantages and disadvantages

The main advantage of automation are:

  • Replacing human operators in tedious tasks.
  • Replacing humans in tasks that should be done in dangerous environments (i.e. Fire, space, volcanoes, nuclear facilities, under the water, etc)
  • Making task that are beyond the human capabilities such as handle too heavy loads, too large objects, too hot or too cold sustances or the requirement to make things too fast or too slow.
  • Economy improvement. Sometimes and some kinds of automation implies improves in economy of enterprises, society or most of humankind. For example, when an enterprise that has invested in automation technology recovers its investment; when a state or country increases its income due to automation like Germany or Japan in the XX Century or when the humankind can use the internet which in turn use satellites and other automated engines.

The main disadvantages of automation are:

  • Technology limits. Nowadays technology is not able to automatizate all the desired tasks.
  • Initial costs are relative high. The automation of a new product required a huge initial investment in comparison with the unit cost of the product, although the cost of automation is spread in many product batches. The automation of a Plant required a great initial investment too, although this cost is spread in the products to be produced.

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