Can you imagine an automaker having to produce one car at a time, completely manually? It would be something complex and time-consuming, right? Therefore, we can say that industrial automation is essential for factories, not just the automotive or large ones, as it is a true solution for companies in general, increasing productivity and efficiency.
We prepared this content to clarify the concept of industrial automation, its purpose, how it is implemented and other questions on the subject. By the end of this article, you will know all about automation!
What is the concept of automation?
Automation is the control and execution of operational processes in factories, establishments in general, telecommunications, etc., with the use of mechanical or electronic devices, reducing or completely replacing human intervention. With it, manual processes become automated, presenting a better performance with regard to precision, power and operating speed.
Some scholars argue that automation began thousands of years ago, with the invention of the wheel – which made life easier for human beings, reducing friction, strength and working time.
Some time later, grain mills appeared, already configuring a process of mechanization and giving new possibilities to man.
In the 17th century, with the creation of the steam engine and, later, the combustion engine, the form of production took great leaps. Later, in the 20th century, with the invention of the electric machine and, later, the computer, automation evolved, revolutionizing industrial activities.
What is industrial automation?
Industrial automation is the use of control devices, computers, robots and other technologies to reduce or eliminate human intervention in stages of production processes.
Automation “mimics” human activity. For example, when we turn on the shower, we use our hands as sensors to feel and check the temperature.
The brain, acting as a processor, analyzes this information to see if the temperature is adequate and makes a decision, performing some action, such as opening or closing a temperature regulator to find the sweet spot.
This is basically how automation occurs: with the use of sensors, processors and actuators.
In the 70s, General Motors boosted this new form of production in the world, by encouraging the creation of the first automation device: the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), which accepts programming, eliminating the constant and expensive change of control panels, previously required for the manufacture of different car models.
What is the purpose of industrial automation?
The purpose of automation is to streamline tasks and increase productivity. In other words, reduce process time and increase efficiency, without leaving quality aside. In addition, performing tasks that are often complex or dangerous for human labor.
With automation in the industry, process variables are observed and controlled, forming effective systems that help to produce more, reducing operating costs.
It also increases reliability, with a safer working environment for all employees. The availability of machinery is another highlight of automation, as it is considerably increased, allowing it to meet different demands within the expected timeframe.
How is industrial automation done?
In short, industrial automation is based on systems that help monitor factory performance, detect setpoints, and many other functions. These systems are composed of:
Input devices – sensors that collect important data about production processes, such as: temperature, speed, level, position, among others;
Processing devices – the main one is the PLC, which commands and monitors machines, based on the data received and on the programming by which it is submitted;
Output devices – are the equipment that effectively act on the processes, such as industrial computers
Difference between mechanization and automation
Although they seem synonymous, the terms mechanization and automation are different. Mechanization allowed large-scale manufacturing, with the replacement of human labor by machines.
Automation, more than that, helps to improve production practices, making equipment smart, collecting data, analyzing and improving processes.
Thus, it helps to control mechanized systems, with the integration between the work of men and machines.
What is the role of computers in industrial automation?
Before the advent of computers and information technology, automation was restricted to physical sensors and mechanical controls. After the invention of interconnected electronic machines, it became possible to evaluate systems and apply more assertive actions.
The industrial computer helps to control the automation systems and is highly flexible, allowing changes in production processes, bringing advantages to the business.
Developed for harsh environments, this robust machine allows organizations to develop products, program systems, use advanced technologies, apply Industry 4.0 solutions such as Augmented Reality, etc.
Main equipments for industrial automation
One of the most important pieces of equipment for the implementation of automation in the industry is the PLC – a tool that can be programmed, through a specific language, to carry out processes.
In addition to it, several other devices and elements make up integrated systems, performing data collection, control, supervision, and much more. Some examples:
- HMIs (Human-Machine Interfaces);
- Industrial Computers;
We conclude that industrial automation, through integrated systems, advanced technologies and state-of-the-art equipment, contributes significantly to the improvement of production processes and to the true success of companies of different sizes and segments.
Finally, in case you still don’t know, I invite you to browse our website, to check out our products and talk to our team of experts.
We have more than 20 years of experience working in the automation sector, providing solutions for different projects. Count on us and until next time!