There has been a massive increase in the use of industrial automation systems. However, it can be challenging to determine the right automation system for your business. The right automation system will depend on various factors, such as labour conditions, competitive pressures, work requirements, manufacturing and assembly specifications, and labour costs.
There are four types of automation systems: fixed automation, programmable automation, flexible automation, and integrated automation.
Fixed automation systems: Also known as hard automation. They are designed to complete a single set of tasks repeatedly and are typically used for discrete mass production or continuous flow systems. For example, an automated conveyor belt in the automotive manufacturing industry moves objects with minimal effort, thereby increasing efficiency.
Programmable automation systems: Controlled by commands delivered by a computer program. Automated processes can vary based on the instructions sent to the computer by the designer's code. Programmable automation is commonly used in settings where similar items are produced using the same automated steps and tools. For example, the automotive industry might use the same machine to produce several variations of Plastic vehicle bumpers.
Flexible automation: Also known as soft automation, is typically used in batch processes with a variety of products. In this type of automation, each piece of equipment is given instructions by a computer operated by a human, allowing for more flexible production. The primary advantage of flexible automation is that product changeovers occur quickly and automatically because they are conveyed by the control system, eliminating the extra time required to reconfigure the equipment in between batches. Industries that use flexible automation include textile manufacturing, food processing and packaging manufacturing.
Integrated automation systems: Involves totally automating manufacturing plants with minimal human involvement. Computers can be used to design parts, test the completed designs, and then fabricate the new parts. Integrated automation can be used with continuous process manufacturing and batch process manufacturing.