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Industrial automation is omnipresent in today's society, spanning practically all disciplines and specializations of our businesses. Manufacturing, engineering, building, power generation, and other industries at the heart of the economy rely on automation technologies to operate more efficiently and productively. And, because to revolutionary technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and others, industrial automation is experiencing a fresh spike in growth.
Defining Industrial Automation
Let's take a brief look at the foundations of automation as a concept to better grasp industrial automation.
The word "automation" refers to a wide range of technologies, methods, and instruments that are used to decrease human interaction in processes in order to make them more effective, rapid, productive, and error-free. Automation may be found in almost every aspect of our lives, ranging from consumer items and household appliances to advanced and complicated systems that power modern-day transportation vehicles such as planes and ships, factories, and even financial solutions.
Automation may be accomplished through a variety of scientific techniques and methodologies, the most common of which are mechanical, hydraulic, electrical and electronic, hydraulic, and computer.
Industrial automation is an area that focuses on automating industrial processes and machinery with the help of information technologies, specialist equipment (logic controllers, various types of modules, and so on), and robots to improve manufacturing, quality assurance, and materials management processes.
Nowadays, industrial automation can be found in virtually all businesses and supply chains. It's hard to view a factory or production line of any sort that doesn't employ some combination of these instruments and processes. And, as new technology improves, the range of applications for industrial automation systems expands dramatically. Today, software applications, equipment, and robots are being employed to handle a growing range of jobs that were formerly done by humans or needed human supervision and interaction.
Industrial Automation's History
Even while automation as a distinct technical sector only arose in the twentieth century, it is reasonable to claim that it existed long before that, serving as the cornerstone of a long-term effort to improve production efficiency. For decades before to the industrial revolution, the largest firms were developing specialized technology to increase productivity and precision of labor beyond human capabilities. And today's industrial automation systems, which are designed to function with little human involvement and without downtime for optimum efficiency, represent the pinnacle of this automation push.
Automation's first steps (300 BC to 1700s AD)
Without going into a lengthy history lesson, we can state that the first types of automated tools and procedures were established by the top civilizations of the period, such as Ancient Greece and Persia, about 300 BC.
Industrial Revolution- First Phase
In the seventeenth century, the invention of the steam engine and the first self-driven machinery necessitated the development of the first automated control systems, such as speed control devices, temperature and pressure regulators.
The introduction and fast adoption of factory electricity early in the twentieth century provided a significant push to the development of industrial automation. The advent of a new generation of automation solutions was brought in by the electrification of the world. Such as numerous types of control and monitoring systems, as well as innovative communication (long-distance telephone) and signal processing systems
Industrial Revolution- Second Phase
The Second Industrial Revolution, which lasted from 1871 to 1914, was defined by widespread adoption of electricity, telegraph networks, and railroads across the world. We were able to attain a new level of productivity and economic growth as a result of the combination of these factors.
The word "automation" was invented and popularized by the car industry in the United States, as a second stage in progression after mechanization. In the 1930s, a variety of novel technologies and techniques, such as feedback controllers, were launched and quickly gained favor, primarily among automotive manufacturers. Ford was a forerunner in this industry, creating an automation division as part of its operations in 1947.
Present Digital Revolution
The Third Industrial Revolution, often known as the Digital Revolution, was another significant moment in history when the industrial automation area underwent the next major growth spiral. It began in the second half of the twentieth century, following the end of the two world wars, and was characterized by a transition from mechanical and analogue electronic systems to digital technologies, which evolved quickly thanks to advances in computers and communications.
The age we are still in is known as the Third Industrial Revolution. During this period, industrial automation grew in popularity. Microprocessors, integrated circuit (IC) chips, and other modern computer system components have fueled this growth. Mobile telephony and the Internet are examples of communication technology.
Defining Industry 4.0
The notion of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, is intrinsically related to industrial automation, as we move from past to the present.
The concept of Industry 4.0 is said to have been originated by Klaus Schwab, a German engineer and economist who founded the World Economic Forum. It highlights fast changes in industries, technologies, and processes, powered by the integration of cutting-edge technology. The move to Industry 4.0, which Schwab sees as a significant shift in industrial capitalism, is defined by widespread use of a variety of automation technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI), robots, large-scale machine-to-machine communication (M2M), Internet of Things (IoT), smart automation and connectivity approaches, and so on are examples of these technologies.
These technical advancements, together with other more specialized techniques and approaches, had a huge impact on industrial automation, boosting overall efficiency and output to previously unheard-of levels.
Defining Industry 5.0
In a summary, industry 5.0 is primarily concerned with the integration of people and robots in automated industrial environments, as well as the utilization of IoT devices.
Robotics, as a sub-branch of industrial automation, is a fast-emerging area with rising relevance, hence it merits its own section.
Welding, painting, assembling, material handling, packing, palletizing, product inspection, testing, and other operations and applications all use industrial robots today. The industrial robotics field received a new boost of development with the development and adoption of latest tech innovations, primarily machine vision, AI, and Edge computing, resulting in the emergence of increasingly complex and powerful solutions capable of taking care of a growing number of tasks that were previously considered non-automatable and thus had to be performed by humans.
What Is Industrial Automation's Purpose?
Industrial automation is necessary for the contemporary world to function as we know it. Using computers, software, robotics, modern machinery, and control systems, we can conduct all of the operations in the shortest amount of time and with the least amount of effort, resulting in an overall increase in productivity. Automation propels the economy forward, helping it to expand and remain competitive while giving invaluable advantages to businesses of all sizes.
Even though it may seem self-evident how utilizing machines, robots, and industrial automation solutions add value and enable businesses to achieve previously unimaginable levels of efficiency and productivity, let's go over the main benefits of industrial automation solutions in a little more detail.
They'd also be the factors for the market's quick expansion.
1. Good Efficiency
Industrial automation technologies enable today's continuous mass production, allowing plants and factories to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week with little downtime. Automation systems boost productivity by speeding up all operations and reducing assembly times. Efficiency is good.
2. Cost Savings
One of the most significant corporate benefits of using industrial automation systems is cost savings. Technological advancements such as robots, smart machinery, and AI systems have aided in the reduction of manufacturing costs. This increases the value of a company's assets and makes it more lucrative.
3. Consistency and Higher Quality
Another significant benefit of deploying automation solutions is the removal of human mistake and a significant increase in consistency, resulting in improved product quality and a consistent high degree of consistency. Manual operations have an average error rate of 1.15%, while industrial automation systems offer error rates as low as 0.00001%.
4. Enhanced Security
Another significant benefit of widespread use of industrial automation technology is increased workplace safety and personnel protection. Human mistakes are reduced, resulting in fewer accidents and injuries, while using robots and machines to undertake activities in risky and hazardous areas helps employees to minimize dangers and avoid the long-term health repercussions of working in industrial settings.
5. Increased Adaptability
Automation solutions are also intended to increase the flexibility of industrial processes and gear. The ability to reprogram robots and gadgets enables businesses to respond quickly to changing market needs.
6. Increased Human Capability and Additional Value
Automation solutions bring value by allowing humans to focus on more sophisticated creative activities. They were created to free employees from having to conduct repetitive and tedious labor. As a result, integrating sophisticated industrial automation technologies with skilled human labor boosts human capability significantly.
7. Data Support and Manufacturing Traceability Have Reached a New Level
Another important aspect of automation, and especially Industry 4.0 technologies, is automated data collecting. Innovative technologies that can gather and analyze many types of data in real time open up a whole new world of possibilities. They enable businesses to increase traceability, minimize waste, and optimize all work processes in real time.
8. Predictive Maintenance and Real-Time Monitoring
One of the primary tasks of industrial automation systems, which we'd like to emphasize as a last benefit, is to enable continuous real-time monitoring of all operations. Issues and faults in manufacturing processes may be quickly noticed and handled thanks to a number of very sensitive sensors included in modern industrial machines. As a result, maintenance costs are cheaper, equipment life cycles are longer, and accidental problems are reduced.
Industrial Automation Examples
As noticed, industrial automation is a broad topic that encompasses a wide range of approaches and solutions. And in this essay, we'll go through the most noteworthy, essential, and relevant of them in greater depth.
Here are some instances of industrial automation systems that demonstrate the diversity and all-encompassing complexity of industrial automation.
Material handling systems that are automated
Machines for packaging
Systems for assembling
Conveyor systems of various types
Transfer lines for machining
Metal fabrication includes machining, welding, and cutting.
Automated paint and coating processes
Inspection and quality control
Various types of programmable logic controllers
Robotics in the workplace
Machines that process food and beverages
Inspection and non-destructive testing
Automated swage machines are a type of swage machine that is used to collect
Drilling and fixing by robot
Command and data handling for equipment condition monitoring
Automated industrial transportation
Various Kinds of Industrial Automation
Clearly, sorting through and comprehending all of this interrelated technology will be difficult. Let's start by categorizing the many forms of industrial automation.
The application of industrial automation systems is one of the most popular and generic methods to categorize them.
Automated (hard) Work
Fixed automation, also known as hard or rigid automation, refers to the most permanent and application-specific forms of industrial automation systems that are often built to perform a particular process, job, or group of functions and are not easily adaptable to different applications.
It would be difficult to alter or change the way a fixed automation system handles operations once it has been established. This is why fixed industrial automation systems are employed in mass production and continuous flow systems are used to automate non-variational repetitive operations of all types.
Some examples of fixed automation solutions are as follows:
Conveyor belts that are fully automated
In the automobile sector, assembly lines are used.
Conveyor systems for material handling
Transfer lines for machining
Stations for painting and coating
Programmable automation refers to a kind of automation solutions that may execute many tasks and are controlled by commands provided via the use of computer code. Programmable automation components, which are designed to be more flexible than fixed tools, are extensively utilized throughout sectors, but are most typically seen in manufacturing processes that produce things in batches. Programmable automation technologies enable for customizing and adjusting manufacturing equipment to meet the needs of each individual product.
The following are some examples of programmable automation:
CNC (Computer Numerical Operated) machine tools are those that are controlled by a computer.
Logic controllers that can be programmed (PLC)
Quality control methods based on machine vision
Robotics in the workplace
Various production processes for automobiles and machinery
Flexible automation, also known as soft automation, refers to computer-controlled systems and software solutions that link, control, and measure the sequence of activities of diverse machines and equipment, as well as human personnel.
A few instances of flexible automation are as follows:
Robots are robotic devices that may be programmed to carry out a wide range of tasks
Stations for mobile welding, painting, and coating
Material-handling systems with a variety of configuration options
Other industrial instruments with a wide range of applications and customization options.
What's the Difference Between Programmable Automation and Flexible Automation?
If the last two categories appeared to be confusingly similar, it's because they are. In many respects, flexible automation is a continuation of programmable automation. The main distinction between these two categories is the degree of freedom they give. Programmable automation devices are often designed to create large quantities of the same type of items in a consistent manner or to accomplish a variety of jobs with minimal variation. Flexible automation systems, as the name implies, are more general and adaptable to a variety of jobs and requirements.
The term "integrated automation," sometimes known as "totally-integrated automation," refers to what is seen as the next phase in the evolution of industrial automation systems. Integrated automation refers to software that aims to centralise and automate the use of tools and the administration of processes in order to achieve optimum efficiency while reducing the need for human intervention.
A few instances of integrated automation systems are as follows:
Programming for a distributed control system
CAPP (computer-assisted process planning) systems
Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) are control systems for production lines.
Integration solutions for the IT and software environments
Test systems for manufacturing processes
Material handling systems that are automated
Data management systems that are coordinated
Systems for automatic storage and retrieval
Control Systems for Industry
Industrial control systems are one of the most important technologies in industrial automation (ICSs).
Once again, industrial control systems is a broad technical topic that encompasses a variety of control systems and related software tools that are used to automate and manage diverse industrial processes. Control systems range in size and complexity from basic controllers to extensive SCADA systems capable of managing manufacturing and other industrial operations across several technology layers and geographical locations.
Let's go through some of the most prevalent industrial control system types and components.
SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) Systems
SCADA stands for supervisory control and data acquisition, which is a name for complex control systems that employ a variety of components to give a high degree of automated controls and monitoring of processes, such as computers, graphical user interfaces, and networked data transfers. SCADA systems will be discussed in greater depth later in this text.
Logic Controllers That Can be Programmed
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are modular devices containing a microprocessor and the required number of inputs and outputs (I/O) (varying from dozens to hundreds or even thousands). They integrate many types of industrial solutions in a single network, allowing for automated control and monitoring of industrial machines and processes.
Control Systems That are Distributed
Distributed control systems (DCSs) provide controls, monitoring, and administration for vast industrial processes in a similar way to PLCs. The distinction is that with DCSs, controller functions and field connection modules are dispersed across the system rather than being centralized. This capability allows these solutions to handle even large-scale procedures while also allowing for simple connection and configuration with other computer systems.
Interfaces between Humans and Machines
A human-machine interface (HMI) is a user interface or dashboard that allows humans to communicate with machines, systems, and devices while also monitoring the status of operations in industrial control systems.
Proportional-integral-derivative controllers are a Type of Proportional-integral-derivative controller (PID)
PID control is a method of guiding a system to a desired location or level. Closed-loop control feedback is used to maintain the actual output of a process as near to the goal or setpoint output as feasible. Proportional–integral–derivative controllers are configured in a certain way to be able to employ closed-loop control feedback. They're typically employed in industrial automation systems for constantly modulated control of critical process variables including flow, pressure, speed, and temperature, among other things.
Automation controllers that can be programmed (PAC)
PLCs are comparable to programmable automation controllers, although they are more complicated. They usually feature many microprocessors, which increases their computational capability and allows PACs to control several processes and accomplish multiple tasks at the same time.
Controllers That are Discrete
Discrete controllers are among the most basic industrial control devices available. They're typically utilized in devices like thermostats and timers for simple on/off controls.
Benefits of Using and Automation Systems
1. More Accessibility
One of the key characteristics of any cloud solutions is remote access from any device and location, and this is certainly true with cloud industrial automation systems. Organizations may set up internal automation systems using cloud services although if their IT equipment is dispersed across many locations and, in some cases, countries.
Another important advantage of cloud-based automation solutions and other SaaS products over on-premise hosting is their significantly lower cost. Cloud solutions eliminate the need for enterprises to budget for the purchase, installation, and maintenance of on-premise servers and other equipment necessary to run the automation solution.
3. Consistent results
Using only a third-party solution, assuming it is offered by a reputable vendor, allows a firm to outsource not just the requirement to manage the automation system's physical infrastructure, but also additional issues associated with the on-premise method. Which is a lot, given that today's automation systems must run 24 hours a day, deliver high and consistent performance, be interoperable with an increasing number of platforms and software solutions, and get regular and timely upgrades, among other things.
4. Predictability in Financial Terms
Cloud automation solutions may be incredibly useful financially, not just because they have no upfront fees and are often significantly less expensive to operate. Another important point is that the prices are considerably more predictable, allowing businesses to plan ahead for automation and avoid unforeseen costs.
5. Costs that are Adaptable and Scalable
Furthermore, the majority of cloud automation systems provide variable subscription choices based on an organization's actual needs and expectations. This helps businesses to avoid overpaying on IT infrastructure and scale operations more easily, as automation support expenses will only rise as company operations develop.
6. Enhanced Security
When it comes to protecting industrial automation systems from various types of cyberthreats, such as hacker assaults and data breaches, cloud solutions often provide a greater level of security. Cloud providers often house their servers in large data centers that employ sophisticated centralized cybersecurity techniques that are out of reach for small businesses.
7. Rapid Rollout
Finally, cloud technologies are considerably easier and faster to deploy, allowing firms to adopt automation solutions in days or weeks rather than months or longer on-premise.
Disadvantages of a Cloud Automation System
1. Customization Possibilities are Limited
On the downside, because it is a third-party solution, a cloud automation system often gives the business adopting it fewer control and customization possibilities.
2. Depend on the Solution Provider
While using a cloud system rather than developing an autonomous industrial automation solution helps firms to outsource the majority of the challenges associated with its creation and maintenance, it also elevates the relevance of the third-party supplier. This is why, while evaluating their automation alternatives, IT managers and business decision-makers face another dilemma: selecting the proper supplier.
3. Necessary Internet Access
In order to function, cloud automation solutions require Internet access. This can be a concern in some circumstances, particularly for companies that want their industrial automation systems to remain fully independent of the Internet.
Advantages of On-Premise Automation Systems
1. Complete Control
The key benefit of employing an on-premise industrial automation system is that it is a custom-built solution that can be tailored and applied to meet unique demands and specifications. And the organization retains complete control over the remainder of its life cycle.
2. Increased Uptime
Because on-premise industrial automation systems do not require Internet connection to work, they are often able to deliver higher uptime and dependability, assuming that the organization's IT infrastructure is up to standard.
Disadvantages of On-Premise Automation System
1. Large Amount of Up-Front Money Required
The biggest downside of on-premise industrial automation systems is that they necessitate large upfront investments in terms of development and installation.
2. Higher Maintenance Expenditure
Another downside of on-premise systems is the cost of maintenance. Because the expenses of maintaining any software solution tend to rise over time—maintenance charges account for 55% of the total cost of ownership of any software product—an on-premise system will become an ever-increasing strain on a company's budget.
3. More Time to Plan and Execute
It also takes longer to build and execute an on-premise automation system. It takes time to customize the system, install it on servers, and configure all of the devices. While possible problems, which are common in in-house IT initiatives by organizations without software development competence, can result in project delays and budget overruns.
To Conclude everything said previously, both cloud and on-premise industrial automation systems are still relevant and useful. Cloud systems, are becoming increasingly popular as part of the industry 4.0 tech advances because they make automation technologies much more inexpensive and accessible, even to small and medium businesses who don't have the cash to support an on-premise solution.
The number of products available on the market is expanding in tandem with the demand for cloud automation solutions.
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