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Industrial Automation - Your Comprehensive Guide

Today, the business world runs on technology. Even for firms that have been in operation for decades, they have had to adapt to changing technology to remain competitive in the highly dynamic world. One of the common trends in industrial technology is automation, which involves changing your system so that machines can control some or all the tasks that were previously done manually. 

Industrial automation is more than robotics. It is a full system upgrade that provides your facility's equipment the ability to perform the tasks by themselves. Instead of a worker being there to check when the temperature in a boiler reaches a certain level, your sensors are able to do that and take the next action, such as switching off the system. Keep reading to learn more about industrial automation and how you can implement it in your manufacturing facility. 

What is Industrial Automation?

Before looking at the main types of industrial systems, it is important to start by understanding what it is.  Industrial automation uses control systems, such as computers, sensors, robots, and information technology, to handle various processes and machinery to reduce reliance on or replace human workers. 

Industrial automation involves integrating smart technologies and control devices that go beyond initial programming. When implemented correctly, industrial automation can help to improve the overall performance of an organization by increasing the production speed and adherence to design specifications. The cost of production is also pushed down. 

The process of industrial automation includes the utilization of programmable automation controllers (PACS) and programmable logic controllers (PLCs).  

Types of Industrial Automation 

One of the common types of industrial automation systems is the flexible automation system. In this type of automation, the sequence of machinery configuration can be changed using advanced electronic controls. It is recommended when you need batch process production. Other categories of industrial automation include: 

  • An integrated automation system works well when dealing with a set of independent machines, data, and processes. 
  • Fixed automation system. This is the most basic type of automation where production equipment is fitted with a fixed set of operations or tasks. Rarely are changes done on the operations.

Advantages of Industrial Automation 

  As industrial automation becomes more popular, here are some of the main advantages to anticipate: 

  • High Productivity

When you adopt industrial automation, it implies your system will require fewer human workers to produce more goods efficiently. Furthermore, issues and gaps in the workflow are easy to identify faster and maintain high productivity. 

  • Efficiency 

Automation follows a well-defined process with clear parameters. It helps to cut down human errors that tend to increase, especially when people get tired or emotional. When the system develops problems, it is also easy to identify and correct them early enough. This also implies that you can carry maintenance on time, and your manufacturing facility equipment, from conveyors to motors, will have a longer lifespan.

As we have mentioned already, automation helps to reduce the number of staff and increase the efficiency of operations. These two attributes also mean one thing; your workplace will be safe. For example, risky production procedures can be fully or partially automated to help cut down the risks of accidents. 

  • Greater Flexibility 

With industrial automation, it will be easy to operate on a 24/7 schedule or even choose a more dynamic one. Note that production automation happens at a lower cost compared to when you would be required to add more workers. 

The Main Steps to Industrial Automation in Industries 

Now that you know the benefits of industrial automation, are you ready to implement it in your organization? We must say that it can be a daunting task, especially when existing machinery has to be reworked to make automation possible. So, here are the main steps to follow: 

  • Research: This stage involves gathering data and consulting widely to determine what is needed. 
  • Specification: Once you have collected the required information, the next level is to determine what you want. What equipment will be automated? Is it your packing line, production unit, industrial pump, or HVAC? You might want to get a contractor or expert to help you with the process from this stage. 
  • Design: Here, your system is designed to work with automation tools, such as PLCs and their operations defined. 
  • Develop and test: The automation tools are installed in line with the defined design. Then, the operation is tested to ensure it can deliver anticipated results.
  • Gather data and review the performance: Because automation is expected to improve the performance of your system’s equipment, from those used in the processing area to material handling, you need to gather data and ensure it is working as expected. 

As you can see, industrial automation is a sure way to help take your operations to the next level. Therefore, get the best equipment and sensors for optimal performance. You also need to ensure they are installed correctly by a professional in industrial automation.