Automation is a much anticipated and needed use of technology. It holds the promise of a reliable way to execute various types of procedures with little human assistance required. Therefore, in this article, we will break down the meaning of automation, classes, and the impact of automation in factories of today. Indeed, its 2019 and automation holds the promise of many potential uses of independent technology. In other words, the technology that can process and produce efficiently.
Firstly, what is automation? There are many misconceptions concerning what the word “automation” means. We will debunk them and provide what it entails. Automation is the use of technology for a process or a procedure that requires minimal human interference. Contrary to popular opinion, automation is not concerned with the full and total usage of robots for every step of a process or procedure.
Instead, it covers the use of machines to carry out tasks that still have human involvement, albeit on a smaller scale. Automation encompasses a large variety of aspects of technology.
We will break down some of these aspects. Specifically, we will break automation in factories. Some of these aspects include robotics, computer programs, home facilities over to cybernetics.
Automation in factories explained
A control system is an essential part of factory automation. It is a system responsible for managing, commanding, directing, and regulating the activities and behavior of other systems or devices through the use of control loops. Factory automation is the use of control systems to operate, control machinery, and processes.
The use of factory automation is exceptionally beneficial, which makes it employed in a diverse variety of production processes. Consequently, some of these include plastics, fertilizers, chemicals, food processing, automobile assembly, and aircraft production.
Lights-out automation is a form of automation that is exclusively for production without the use of human workers. This process is done to reduce and eliminate the costs of labor for a social worker. In the U.S., the use of lights-out automation began to generate buzz in 1982 when the car manufacturer, General Motors began taking the necessary steps to replace risk-averse bureaucracy with automation and robots.
Although they tried, the factory was never able to become a lights-out automation factory genuinely. It did not work out back then due to limitations. With modern innovations, the adoption of lights-out is growing in factories. Combined with factors such as the reduced cost of automation and the reliability of robots, automation in factories is becoming an ever-present part of modern production.
The fall in factory automation prices
The increase in the production of robots alongside a higher demand for automation from various industries has been a significant factor in this price reduction. Within the last 30 years, the price of production in creating robots has fallen drastically by 50% in real terms. Also, the labor costs in production have fallen rapidly.
This price reduction combined with the high demand from many emerging economies makes the creation of robots to migrate to regions where the cost is lower. With this, there is a likelihood they will still become cheaper over time.
Low production volume
There is a beauty in the innate flexibility of using automation in factories. This value is because their programming is something that sticks. Once it has the commands, the robots don’t require a repeated order for a task to execute it. This detail helps exponentially in justifying the cost of employing the use of a robot.
This method of using robots helps in considerably lowering the threshold of the volume and also helps in making robots the right choice economically for carrying out tasks that are considered a niche. Niche tasks are those types where the production volumes yearly are within the ranges of tens and hundreds. They are also viable with companies that require small factories for high product variety and small batch sizes.
The potential is high due to this low production. Now, different types of organization models can benefit from factory automation. Smaller companies can efficiently utilize automation in an extremely cost-effective way. Also, larger companies can use automation to increase their product variety for consumers.
With emerging developments in technology, new ways of improving factory automation are also showing. The use of voice technology will be a significant advancement in the use of robots for automation. Voice commands will make an already faster process even more precise and straight to the point.
Faster and easier integration
Unlike human workers, the use of robots in factory automation is a process that is easier to integrate. Moreso, with the new advancements in the adoption of robots for automation. These advancements in software-development, computing, and networking have made the entire process of developing robots a lot faster.
Processes like installing, assembling, and maintaining robots are faster than ever before. Before, the components required had many cables, systems, sensors, actuators, and switches that needed to connect through different terminals, junction boxes, and connectors. Now, with advancements, simple plug, and play techniques do this instead; they also possess immensely more straightforward wiring.
The components use advanced technology and can identify what goes where by themselves. This advancement leads to a significant reduction in the time required to set them up. The actuators and sensors are also kind enough to analyze and monitor themselves. If any issues come up, they can report them to the control system.
This system helps aid the entire process, and the data collected by the control system can receive an analysis for troubleshooting to achieve a self-improving system. Through this, all the robots can be linked to create an extensive production system.
How is automation used in factories
The robots used in factories for automation and production today can be broken down into three categories. Namely, material handling, processing operations, and assembly and inspection.
Material Handling Robots
Material handling applications involves the transfer of materials to a machine and the unloading and loading process. The use of material transfer applications requires the use of robots to move essential work materials and parts from one place to another. These tasks are relatively easy and straightforward for the robots to carry out. Usually, they require robots to pick pieces from a conveyor to another.
Some other applications require more complex activities such as moving parts to a pallet in a calculated manner that the robot must carry out. The use of robots for unloading and machine loading operations makes the robot work faster in a production machine. They require the use of a gripper equipped to the robot so that it can grasp parts more quickly. The gripper’s design is according to the specifications of the geometry of the region it carries.
Robotics processing applications
With robotics processing operations, the factory robot has a tool it manipulates and operates to carry out a process on a work part. An example is in welding. Different forms of welding are applicable, such as spot welding, spray painting, continuous arc welding. The process of spot welding is used in car manufacturing factories by industrial robots, especially in the United States.
A spot welder is positioned by the robot in car factories against the frames and panels of the vehicle to create the car’s body and fully assemble the components. The use of arc welding is a process that is long and continuous, which has the robot use a welding rod along seams on the panels.
The use of spray paint is one that is an excellent display of the potential of factory automation. This process involves the handling of a spray-painting gun to the surface of an object to coat it. Other applications of this type of operation diverge to the polishing, grinding and routing of parts. There is a spindle that rotates and serves as the primary tool for the robot.
Assembly and Inspection
Another area for the use of automation in factories is in the assembly and inspection of manufacturing processes. These robots in the assembly are growing because many experts have predicted that the cost of manual labour will increase. The job that is usually found in these types of operations is no longer as efficient or cost-effective as automation.
Therefore, a simple strategy in assembly is to use the robots to produce various styles in batches, then editing the programming in between batches. Another approach in assembly is to use a mixture of multiple styles in one assembly cell. This requires each robot to identify the style of a product when it arrives, then carry out the right tasks for each unit.
For the success of a factory in the manufacturing business, automation is an excellent booster of efficiency and management. Although they are not at a lights-out stage worldwide. The use of machines helps remove some tedious or challenging aspects of manufacturing.
Therefore, it is best to generate more investments in factory automation. Also, there is a substantial reduction in the use of humans for strenuous tasks. With automation, there are many ways new products will be consistent and faster in the production process. The applications all promise a beneficial and bright future.