Automation in Manufacturing: Understanding Types and Benefits

In the modern Industrial age, Automation continues to be the most effective tool for enhancing manufacturing efficiency. Introducing Automation in manufacturing and Advanced Technologies such as RPA through ERP software has allowed the manufacturers to gain a competitive edge in their production cycle.

Basics of Manufacturing Automation

Automation in the manufacturing industry can be considered the use of equipment that automates systems or production procedures. However, introducing Automation in manufacturing has an end goal and is gaining higher efficiency through increased production or reduced costs. Automation involves the usage of machines to reduce the tedious tasks performed by humans. Electromechanical systems are being widely used as they can be programmed for performing various types of processes. It is not necessary that every manufacturer might find Automation to be beneficial.

The Evolution Story of Industry

Before discussing Automation and modern-day manufacturing, one must clearly understand the concepts and practical applications of Automation that have evolved with time.

  • Industry 1.0 (Introduction of Mechanization): The First Industrial Revolution introduced mechanization of processes with fossil fuel-powered systems that replaced animal-driven power.
  • Industry 2.0 (Introduction of Mass Production): The Second Industrial Revolution witnessed the arrival of notable changes in technology and streamlined manufacturing. An electric supply now powered the manufacturing process.
  • Industry 3.0 (Introduction of Digitization): In terms of productivity achievement, the Third Industrial Revolution played a significant role. Productivity got enhanced due to major inventions like the Internet, Information Technology, Computers, etc. All these tools offered the required framework for modern-day Automation, mass production, and robotics.
  • Industry 4.0 (Modern-Day Industrialization): It is the present industrial scenario where cyber-physical systems or CPS are present in a manufacturing ecosystem. Such methods comprise of machines, their computer-controlled protocols with the users working together.

Manufacturers must realize that the Fifth Industrial Revolution is not far from reality. Advanced Technologies like IoT, Big Data will play a major role in improving the processes in the coming years.

Manufacturing Automation Types

Automation can be considered the mechanization of processes so that all human-centric procedures can be followed for creating products without any human involvement. On the ground-zero of any factor, various forms of Automation exist. The type of Automation is usually determined by the produced products along with the machinery and other required resources.

The following are some basic types of Automation in manufacturing-

  1. Fixed or Hard Automation

Fixed Automation is usually characterized by large volumes of production and higher entry barriers. It is also known as Hard Automation, where most of the programming is available within individual machinery. The speed and process sequencing is usually defined by equipment/production line. It can become tough to make any changes in the product design in the fixed Automation as it is set up with a preset process or application.

Benefits of Fixed Automation:

  • Higher production rate
  • Lower per-unit cost

Drawbacks of Fixed Automation:

  • Relatively challenging to adjust product variety
  • High initial costs for customized engineering equipment
  • High risks to failure
  1. Programmable Automation

Programmable Automation is usually associated with the manufacturing of goods and products in batches. In this form of Automation, there is scope for customization and changes in the entire manufacturing process. Here, the operation is controlled by a program of instructions developed offline over a computer. New programs can be prepared and integrated into the hardware for easy production of new products.

Benefits of Programmable Automation:

  • Flexible in dealing with variations in design
  • Best suited for batch production

Drawbacks of Programmable Automation:

  • Higher investments related to general equipment
  • Lower production rate compared to fixed Automation
  1. Flexible Automation

In Flexible Automation, any changes in the design at the assembly line can be easily carried out. As the programs have to be changed, flexible Automation is usually connected to some form of network that might increase its value through remote monitoring. This form of Automation is associated with real-time and on-demand production, where the designer could work into an existing production line from any part of the world.

Benefits of Flexible Automation:

  • Continuous production of a variety of products
  • Flexible in handling product design variations

Drawbacks of Programmable Automation:

  • A high amount of investment is required
  • High per-unit cost compared to Fixed Automation

Benefits of Automation in Manufacturing

Automation in the manufacturing process assists a business to gain higher levels of productivity along with efficiency through improved product quality. The systems involved in automated manufacturing require near-zero human interventions for their operations, and they perform tasks like assembling, processing, and material inspection.

The following are some notable benefits that manufacturers get by introducing Automation in their manufacturing processes-

  1. When critically dangerous tasks are migrated to automated machines, they can help make the workplace much safer. With the introduction of the Occupation Safety and Health Act in 1970, it became necessary for the manufacturers to consider the safety and health of employees on priority. With Automation taking over in manufacturing, workplaces have become safer for employees.
  1. With investments made in Automation helps in replacing the traditional operations that humans carried out. However, such human-extensive tasks result in higher labor costs, and lower labor costs can be achieved by leveraging Automation across the manufacturing process.
  • Automated systems can perform even the most challenging of tasks with utmost efficiency compared to manual processes. Automation in manufacturing processes increases the productivity of labor and the total production rate.
  1. Automation in manufacturing can lead to better product quality, improved productivity, and higher sales. Also, Automation helps businesses gain higher process efficiency and a competitive edge compared to those who haven’t yet adopted Automation.

Indian Automation Industry Market Scenario

In India, the Industrial Automation industry still lies in the evolution stage. This is primarily due to the increasing Foreign Direct Investments along with the tremendous growth of the manufacturing sector in the country. India is emerging as the preferred sourcing destination for Industrial Automation primarily due to lower labor costs and the Government of India’s organizations like ARAI. Towards the end of FY30, it is predicted that the manufacturing sector in India will contribute about 25-30% of the National GDP.

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