Automation is becoming the ' new normal ' for industry world wide. Many companies are opting for automation and smart manufacturing solutions to become "smart factories". What is automation? Let's define automation.

It is the technology which uses mechanical, electronic and computer system to help manufacture and control things in production.

The term automation is a process in which various tasks in the manufacturing process are performed automatically. The operator is required only for supervision, this enables him to control a number of machines at a time. In today's world for a company to survive in the cut-throat competition, it must opt for automation.

Need of automation / Advantages of automation.

  1. Increase labour productivity.
  2. Reduce labour cost.
  3. Mitigate the effects of labour shortages.
  4. Reduce or eliminate routine manual and clerical tasks.
  5. Improve worker safety.
  6. Improve product quality.
  7. Reduce manufacturing lead time.
  8. Reduce unit cost.

Types of automation

  1. Fixed automation
  2. Programmable automation
  3. Flexible automation

Fixed automation :

Fixed automation refers to the use of special purpose equipments to automate machines to do a specific work only. These type of automatic machines are made to perform single task or at the most two tasks. Take for eg. an automobile assembly line in which there are robots which do specific tasks automatically. Some perform drilling activities only, while some do the welding job.

Programmable automation :

In this the production equipment is designed with the capability to change the sequence of operations to accommodate different product configurations. The operation sequence is controlled by a program, which is a set of instructions coded so that the system can read and interpret them. New programs can be introduced into the equipment to produce new products.

Flexible automation :

It is an extended part of programmable automation. A flexible automated system is one that is capable of producing a variety of products (or parts) with virtually no time lost when changes are made from one product to the next. There is no production time lost while reprogramming the system and altering the physical setup (tooling, fixtures, and machine setting). Consequently, the system can produce various combinations and schedules of products instead of requiring that they be made in separate batches. 

Low cost automation.

  1. Low cost automation (LCA) is to implement an automation solution at the lowest cost. LCA is defined as "a system where man and machine collaborate and work together, to achieve a goal with less investment".
  2. An automation, which is easy to implement with high flexibility and reliability, which occupies less space, that needs zero or minimum maintenance, with minimum investment and running cost, is termed as LCA.
  3. LCA is one solution especially medium and small scale industries who find it difficult to implement automation.
  4. LCA involves the introduction of standard equipment, mechanism and devices to convert manual operation to automatic ones by making use of parts or sub-assemblies of old not utilized machines, mechanisms, system which are available free or at very lower cost.

Examples of automation.

  1. Self-driving vehicles where the vehicle is the driver itself which can take you safely at desired location.
  2. Machine automation in packaging of products, pharmaceutical industry, milk bottling plant etc.
  3. Use of robots in transfer of materials in hospitals, cleaning of passages etc.
  4. Robotic arms for assembly of parts, pick and drop, cleaning of manholes etc.
  5. Alexa system used for voice interaction, musical playback, setting alarms etc.
  6. Online payment systems through use of applications like Google pay, Paypal, Paytm etc.

Automation companies in the US :

  1. Emerson Electric Co.                                                                                                                                          
  2. Applied Materials, Inc.                                                                                                                                
  3. Rockwell Automation Inc.                                                                                                                       
  4. Cognex Corporation                                                                                                                                                                                                         
  5. Teradyne, Inc.                                                                                                                                             
  6. National Instruments Corporation                                                                                                         
  7. Nuance Communications, Inc.                                                                                                                                
  8. MKS Instruments, Inc.                                                                                                                          
  9. Brooks Automation, Inc.                                                                                                                                      
  10. Plexus Corp.