Automation system is the technology by which a process or procedure is performed with minimal human intervention. Industrial automation system, or industrial automatic control, is the use of various industrial control systems for a variety of operations such as machinery, boilers, heat-treating ovens, telephone networking switching, steering, stabilizing ships and aircrafts, and other applications with reduced human assistance.
Automation system has been achieved by many means, including mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical, electronic devices, and computers, or usually in combination. More complicated and intricate systems, such as airplanes, modern factories, etc., typically utilize automation systems to achieve labor saving, cost saving, and so on. We’ll review these in detail in the subsequent sections.
There are fundamentally two types of industrial automation control systems: closed-loop control and open-loop feedback control.
● Open-loop control: The open-loop control action from the controller is freestanding in terms of process output. A good instance of this is a central heating boiler controlled by only a timer. This allows heat to be applied in a constant manner regardless of the temperature in the building. The control action is to switch the boiler on and off. The process output is building temperature.
● Closed-loop control: In closed-loop control, the control action from the controller is based on the process output. In this case, a temperature sensor is included to monitor the building temperature, thus feeding a signal back to the controller to ensure it maintains the temperature of the building as intended by the thermostat.
Therefore, a closed-loop controller has a feedback loop that makes sure the controller provides a process output equal to the "Reference input" or "set point". In light of this, closed-loop controllers are also referred to as the feedback controllers.
The biggest advantage of automation system across industries is perhaps the resulted faster production and cheaper labor costs. Another benefit could be that it replaces hard, physical, or monotonous work. The main advantages of industrial automation systems include:
● Increase productivity: As mentioned above, the core benefit of automation system in the industries is the enhanced throughput or productivity.
● Improved quality: Automation systems are able to significantly improve the quality or the predictability of quality of the production line.
● Improved robustness: Automation systems are capable of improving the consistency of both the production processes and products.
● Reduced labor cost: This is another significantly known benefit as automation systems are able to cut down direct human labor costs and expenses. Minimal manpower is only needed for production oversight and monitoring.
● Reduced cycle time: The installation in operations of automation system is able to reduce cycle time.
● Improved Accuracy: Automated productions are able to complete tasks where a high degree of accuracy is required. Automation systems often prevail in terms of accuracy as opposed to human labor.
● Improved production timespan: Automation systems replace human operators in tasks that involve hard physical or monotonous work (e.g. using one forklift with a single driver instead of a team of multiple workers to lift a heavy object).
● Improved safety: Automation system reduces some occupational injuries (e.g., fewer strained backs from lifting heavy objects), replacing humans in tasks done in dangerous environments (i.e. fire, space, volcanoes, nuclear facilities, underwater, etc.).
● Immense efficiency: Automation systems allow tasks to be performed that are beyond human capabilities of size, weight, speed, endurance, etc. Also, automation systems are able to reduce operation time and work handling time significantly.
● Labor saving: Since automated production does not require many human labors, it frees up workers to take on other roles, making the workflow as a whole more effective and efficient.
● More opportunities: Automation systems Provide higher-level jobs in the development, deployment, maintenance, and running of the automated processes.
On the other hand, some of the main disadvantages of automation systems include:
● Security threat: Overly automated systems may lead to possible security threats and vulnerability due to increased relative susceptibility for committing errors.
● Lack of cognitive capability: Overly automated systems lack the ability to analyze and cope with extreme abnormalities, which is why human workers are still required to supervise the process. This could in turn lead to unpredictable or excessive development costs.
● High initial cost: The implementation of automation system typically has high initial cost.
● Potential job loss: Automation systems could potentially displace workers due to job replacement. This has always be a controversial issue pertaining to what extent should automation be implemented into our lives.
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