Automation is the use of control systems, such as robots or computer, and information technologies for handling different processes and machineries in an industry to replace a human being.
Automation provides benefits to all of industry. Some examples are:
- Manufacturing: It includes food and pharmaceutical, chemical and petroleum, pulp and paper
- Transportation: It includes automotive, aerospace, and rail
- Utilities: It includes water and wastewater, oil and gas, electric power, and telecommunications
- Facility operations: It includes security, environmental control, energy management, safety, and other building automation.
Automation is present in all functions within the industry starting from installation, integration, and maintenance to design till procurement, and management. It even reaches into the marketing and sales functions of these industries.
Automation professionals are responsible for solving complex problems in various vital aspects of industry and its processes. The work of automation professionals is critically important towards the preservation of the health, safety, and welfare of the public and to the sustainability and enhancement of quality of life.
Advantages of automation
1.Low operating cost: Automation eliminates the cost related to human operator such as health care cost, paid leaves, bonuses and pensions. It saves the monthly wages of the workers which leads to substantial cost savings for the company.
2.High productivity: Automation leads to significant increase in the productivity of the company as it allows a company to run a manufacturing plant for 24 hours in a day 7 days in a week and 365 days a year.
3. High Quality: Automation eliminates the error associated with the human being. Robots are not involved in any kind of fatigue, which ultimately results in products with uniform quality manufactured at different times.
4.High flexibility: Automation makes the manufacturing process more flexible. Human operator will require training for the new task but robots can be programmed.
5. High Safety: Automation makes the production line safe for the employees by deploying robots to handle hazardous conditions.
Disadvantages of automation:
1.High Capital expenditure: Automation can be highly effective and brings a positive , it may require a fairly high capital cost.
2. Fear of losing their jobs.
3. Loss of flexibility
Types of automation
Automation in production can be distinguished into 3 types:-
1.Fixed Automation: Fixed automation refers to the use of special purpose equipment in which we automate a fixed sequence of processing or assembly operations. It is also known as hard automation.
2.Programmable Automation: In programmable automation, the equipment is designed with the capability to change the sequence of operations to accomodate different product configurations.
3.Flexible Automation: Flexible automation is an extension of programmable automation. Here the system is capable of producing a variety of parts with virtually no loss of time for changeovers from one part style to the next. The loss production time is nearly zero while reprogramming the system and altering the physical set up.
Impact of COVID-19 on automation industry
Due to the lockdown implementation for the prevention of COVID-19, almost all conferences that had to happen in the last three quarters of 2020 have either been postponed to 2021 or cancelled. The automation industry will be facing a huge slowdown due to the lockdown and cancellation of major conferences in manufacturing in 2020, but there might be a hope of pickup in 2021.
Technology industry is expected to be the most affected industry by covid-19. The pandemic stress has become a test for the ability to cope up and efficiency of the companies under these kind of situations. Most of the companies will suffer a loss or drop in the revenues.
Impact of COVID-19 is different in various industries of automation. Most of the industries like food automation, manufacturing automation, industrial automation etc. are stuck where they are. In the future, there will be a huge demand for these kind of industries due to the innovation. There will be necessity to minimalize the person to person contact where ever possible. Even companies started taking steps towards this kind of new innovation.
The global pandemic has encouraged companies to innovate like never before in the past. Most of the companies who might have been slow to adapt technologies on automation like Machine learning, artificial intelligence and Robotic process automation has been leveraging these technologies as a way to cut the costs during this economic crisis and also to provide faster services to the customers and restart their operations for distributed work. Whatever the work is done on automation today will pave a way for a better future. For example, hospitals who are implementing the new technologies in the treatment of coronavirus has been utilizing the automation well and the government personnel are encouraging this by lending them loans for lesser interests to buy the equipment requires for the implementation on new technologies.
Health care organizations are one of the bunch who are using software robots under automation in the pandemic situation in innovative ways. Some of the are creating ventilator splitters which help to use one ventilator for multiple patients, creating personalized proactive equipment (PPE) kits for the front line workers using 3D printers, live reporting of COVID-19 results globally on different websites with second to second accuracy, to analyse the incoming data from around the globe on COVID-19 reports. Most of the hospitals helped nurses to refocus energy and time by leveraging automated systems.
Automation helps to empower humans to do the compassionate, strategic and creative work at their best and make the world a better place