The advent of technology is changing all industries these days – optimizing processes, productions, and systems. In other words, its development is inviting the way for a more competitive and convenient way of doing business.
Industrial automation is the future of work and it has paved the way for various industrial processes to be automated effectively, economically, and safely. This has resulted in the introduction of new jobs, such as industrial technician, industrial engineer, and industrial program manager.
These new job titles, coupled with the increased efficiency brought about by industrial automation, have contributed to reducing unemployment in many industries.
What Is Industrial Automation?
Industrial automation refers to a broad spectrum of technological methods that minimize human interaction from various processes in the industry.
Human intervention is significantly reduced by embodying such decision criteria as quality, quantity, frequency, costs, durability, usability, workflow, and associated actions. These decisions are embodied in automated machines.
How To Incorporate Automation In Your Existing Processes?
Industrial automation can be used to run various manufacturing processes through the same hardware and software system. For example, the automation should connect control standards, like handwheels or inching drives, to a computer so operators can control them remotely.
If you want to implement industrial automation in your current processes, here are the things you should do:
1. Identify Opportunities Where You Can Automate
Some processes are more adaptable and open to automation compared to other processes. That’s why before you can implement automation in some of your operations, you need to identify first if a particular process can be automated or not.
Most processes that are open for automation typically comprise both transaction and decision parts. Transaction parts benefit more from automation because these parts are composed of repetitive tasks.
2. Select A Design Model
After identifying the processes that are open for automation, you should now choose the best design model that best fits your process requirements. When choosing the suitable design model for your needs, you should check your process map.
The process map is the graphical and visual representation of all your business or manufacturing processes. It provides an overview of the tasks being performed and the outcome of each of these tasks.
Additionally, the process map can help you identify the inefficiencies in your system and how automation can help process optimization.
After determining your requirements, you can choose from these four types of design models:
- Fixed Automation – This design model has production equipment fixed with a set of operations or tasks that rarely changes. This system is usually used for mass production systems that involve continuous flow processes.
- Flexible Automation – This design is always controlled by computers. It’s often used when the product varies frequently.
- Programmable Automation – This design uses a sequence of operations, and the configuration of the machinery can be changed with the use of electronic controls. This design is usually used in batch process production.
- Integrated Automation – This design model uses a set of independent machines, data, and processes. It works synchronously under the command of a single control system. This model is usually used to control robots, cranes, and conveyors.
After choosing a design model, you should start developing an automation plan. To optimize the system, it’s best to automate the time-consuming parts of your processes and build additional incremental automation.
Test Your New System
Before implementing your automation plan, it’s crucial to create test data and corresponding test cases. A good testing strategy should be able to isolate and describe different functional requirements. In addition, you should choose tests based on their expected results and their complexity. It’s essential to separate the tasks of humans from those of automated testing tools.
After testing your new automated system, you should deploy the pilot stage before rolling it out for actual use. This will allow you to evaluate your new automated system’s effectiveness and overall performance after integrating it into your actual process.
It’s also the best chance to see any improvements or changes you need to add to the system so you can improve its efficiency.
Design Training And Contingency Plans
When implementing an automation system, you need to create a training and contingency plan depending on the criticality of the process. You need to ensure that the people who’ll be using the system are adequately trained and informed on operating the system.
Contingency plans should also be in place in case the system suddenly fails and manual operation is needed to be done. This way, there won’t be any disruption in the processes.
There are many benefits of using automated systems in an industrial setting. For one, it helps to reduce costs and also increases the productivity of your manufacturing facility.
This technology can be used for various purposes such as controlling the manufacturing process, eliminating wastes, providing personalized service, improving customer service, providing additional workspace, increasing output, cost-saving, and many more.
When implementing automation systems, you need to identify processes that can benefit more from being automated. Next, you need to choose a design model that’ll suit your needs.
Lastly, you need to test your new automated system and train people to use this system. It’s also critical to have a contingency plan in place in case the system suddenly fails.