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The industrial revolution of the 21st century is fueled by automation. The roots of industrial automation lie in machines, control systems, and information technology. The antiquated way of using robotics to perform a specialized task is giving way to a smarter, leaner, totally mechanized, and agile way of manufacturing products. Automation has emerged as the de-facto way of streamlining mass production processes with minimal error, saving time, and cutting costs incurred due to manpower. With the advancements in technology and decreasing hardware costs, traditional enterprises and industrial powerhouses are gradually transitioning to automating their business processes, shop floor, and supply chain, due to the following technological advancements:
- With advancements in nanotechnology and miniaturization, components will reduce in size and will easily integrate with physical subsystems. This will result in drastic reduction in power consumption and increase speed.
- Automation will result in more centralized and intelligent control systems interconnected by sensors and actuators. The entire automated chain will be intelligent and adaptive to a wide range of transient behaviors.
- With the proliferation of wireless capabilities and Internet of Things (IoT), new standards are developed by vendors which will lead to more automation and subsequently achieve economies of scale.
Industrial automation is a godsend for heavy industries. The advantages far outweigh the challenges and barriers to adoption. Some of the advantages are:
More efficient and productive
Increased efficiency and productivity are by far the biggest advantages of industrial automation. Accuracy is maintained throughout the supply chain and assembly line due to minimal human interference and maximum automation of control systems. This leads to predictability of results and encourages speedy deployment of error-checking mechanisms should any red flag pop up. With the help of IoT, the results can be accessed anywhere, anytime, eliminating use of redundant resources.
Industrial automation leads to superior quality of products. Since quality has no substitute, automation removes all roadblocks which otherwise are attributed to human-induced errors. There is greater monitoring of all systems and enforcement of high degree of control.
Significant cost savings
Automation and IoT help enterprises save on labor, salaries, insurance coverage, etc. The initial cost of setting up an automation infrastructure might be on the higher side, but over time, enterprises achieve a high ROI.
Safety of workforce
Industrial automation leads to a safe workplace, preventing accidents and injuries. Machines can work in extremely hazardous conditions where no human involvement is possible. Replacing human workers with automated systems in situations where there is significant threat to life, for example, in conflict zones, nuclear sites, mining and exploration, etc., is a win-win situation for everyone.