Benefits of industrial automation
Although industrial automation has been around for more than half a century, it is still wildly discussed – in fact now more than ever. We often hear politicians, business executives and economists use it together with concepts such as Industry 4.0, smart industry, digitalization of the industry and the industrial Internet of Things. But what does this phenomenon actually mean? How can we benefit from industrial automation? And do the benefits of industrial automation actually make the industry more efficient, safe and smart? In order to fully understand it, we need to start by breaking it down and learning a bit about its origin. And we’ll start with the terminology itself.
The term automation was first coined in Germany around 1946 and was used in the automobile industry to describe the use of automatic gadgets and devices. The word automation derives from the Greek words auto, meaning self, and matos, meaning moving. The meaning of automation has since then more or less stayed the same, but the usage has evolved. Nowadays it refers to the technology where a procedure is performed with minimal human assistance, regardless of industry.
Industrial automation is a process often spoken about as an integration of machines into a system that is self-governing. It has so far proven to be revolutionary, with results including increased productivity, reliability, consistency and efficiency in machinery. This in turn makes for smarter, safer, greener and more advanced manufacturing facilities. Furthermore, industrial automation has made it possible to execute specific tasks that would otherwise be impossible to perform.
Main benefits of industrial automation
First and foremost, industrial automation increases productivity and reduces costs tied to human labor. By controlling the production more precisely, and by reducing the assembly time, the production rate is improved, hence leading to a consistent and more efficient production.
Secondly, since automated production is executed with fewer humans there is a much lower risk of human error. This results in an improved product quality and a smarter production. It does not mean however that it excludes all humans out of the process, as the only way an error-free production can be maintained is through controlling and monitoring on a regular basis, from raw materials to the end product. And this is still mainly done by humans.
Thirdly, and also one of the most valuable benefits, industrial automation leads to an increased level of safety. Relieving human operators from tasks that involve hard physical work, e.g. lifting heavy objects, reduces occupational injuries. Furthermore, automation can remove humans from hazardous and risky work environments such as fires, volcanoes or nuclear facilities, and therefore limits the exposure to hazardous chemicals, poor air quality and extreme temperatures.
The benefits stated above are all frequently mentioned in articles and research about industrial automation. Something that is hardly ever spoken about though, but definitely deserves some extra attention, are the numerous environmental benefits listed below:
- Industrial manufacturers can use analytics to adjust energy loads on machines.
- Energy savings can be significant due to the possibility of lower heating requirements in automated operations.
- A more precise production and streamlined operations lead to minimal material waste.
- Increased production and lower cycle times, leading to less energy consumption.
- The streamlining processes and the compactness of some automated machines can reduce the need for factory floor space.
Industrial automation makes manufacturing better
It is becoming increasingly important for modern industry to adopt smart manufacturing processes. And why shouldn’t we? Industrial automation provides effective solutions that result in more efficient and flexible production processes. Facilitating increased production levels and a better utilization of manufacturing resources ultimately means a more ergonomic and clean production. And in order to meet the demands of current generations, as well as making way for generations to come, it also addresses increasingly important environmental challenges. All in all, industrial automation welcomes you to a smarter, safer and more efficient industry – if only you allow it to happen.
For Lean Clean Green //Maria Lundkvist