What is automation? Quite simply, it’s the use of control systems for operating equipment with reduced or minimal human intervention required. You’ll see examples of automation in machinery, processes in factories, telephone networks and in aircraft or ships. It is possible to have some processes that are completely automated. Automation is great for saving labour costs, saving energy and improving quality and precision.
The first real use of the word automation, inspired by the word automatic, ws when Henry Ford established an automation department for the first production line in the automobile industry in 1947. Since then, automation has been achieved using mechanical, pneumatic and electrical devices and now computers too. Complex systems like those on an aircraft will use a combination of all of the techniques. For a touch of your own personal automation luxury, think about Home Automation and visit http://digitalinteriors.co.uk/.
The main advantages of automation include:
- Improved quality
- Increased productivity
- Increased consistency of output
- Improved robustness of processes or product
- Reduction in labour costs and expenses
- Reduction in cycle time
- High degree of accuracy
- Replacement for jobs that are monotonous or physically tough
- Perform tasks beyond human ability such as with heavy weight, size, speed and endurance
- Replacement for humans in hazardous environments such as underwater, space, fire or nuclear facilities
- Frees up workers to take on other roles
- Provides higher level jobs for the maintaining and running of automated processes
Disadvantages of automation in the workplace could be see as follows:
- An automated system is vulnerable to committing errors outside its scope of knowledge if it has limited intelligence
- The costs involved can be unpredictable and excessive and may amount to more than any possible savings made by automating a process
- High initial cost of installing equipment
- Concerns over unemployment for manual workers
- If machinery breaks then often there is no alternative but to halt production until issue is fixed
- There are limitations to automation and current technology is not able to automate every desired task
- The high volume production can prove very costly if there is an error or malfunction. Some personnel are also required to make sure the entire system functions as it should
- Tasks requiring subjective assessment of sensory data and high level tasks such as strategic planning still currently require human expertise.
We see examples of increasing automation everyday. McDonald’s fast food restaurant has introduced touch screen ordering and payment systems to reduce the need for cashiers. Some restaurants have automated delivery and send food to customers on a conveyor belt to replace the need for waiting staff. No doubt you have used a self-service checkout in your local supermarket? This greatly reduces the need for so many checkout operators.
Shopping is also becoming increasingly automated with online stores offering apps where you can order and have your payment taken through an online transaction processing system. Your item is most likely then picked by automated warehouse robotics such as those used by Amazon.
In motoring we can also see the rise of automation with self-driving cars. The hope is for fully automated highways and vehicles to complete intelligent vehicle-highway systems that are safer and more eco-friendly.