What is industrial automation?

Industrial automation is the use of various control systems, such as computers, PLC’s or robots, and information technologies for handling different processes and machineries in an industry to replace a human being. Industrial automation involves usage of:

  • Advanced control strategies like cascade controls
  • Modern control hardware devices such as PLC’s, RTU’s, etc.
  • Sensors and other instruments for sensing the control variables
  • Signal conditioning equipment to connect the signals to the control devices
  • Drives and other significant final control devices
  • Standalone computing systems, communication systems
  • Alarming and HMI (Human Machine Interface) systems

It is used in operating equipment such as machinery, processes in factories, boilers and heat-treating ovens, switching in telephone networks, steering and stabilization of ships, aircraft and other applications with minimal or reduced human intervention. It is the second step beyond mechanization in the scope of industrialization.

Industrial automation structure

Structure of the industrial automation explains various levels of operation. These include:

  1. Sensor level
  2. Automation control level (Unit, cell, process controls)
  3. Supervision level
  4. Enterprise level

Pyramid structure indicates that, as you go up the tip , the information is aggregated and while coming down it is dissolved. This means we will get the detailed information for a particular variable at the bottom. Industrial automation doesn’t mean that all the levels are automated like enterprise level need not be automated. Sensor level is also called as process layer. It uses the sensors and actuators to get the values of the process variables in continuous or periodical manner. These act as eyes and arms of the industrial processes. Some of these instruments include pneumatic instruments, smart instruments, etc.

Industrial automation structure

Industrial automation structure

Industrial automation layers

Industrial automation layers

Automation control level or control layer uses industrial control devices like PC’s/PLC’s/DCS, etc. This level utilizes the various embedded processors, PID algorithms to control the process.

Industrial automation layers

Supervising level or SCADA layer gets lots of channel information and stores the data in the system database. It acquires data from various control devices and displays them on HMI’s (Human Machine Interface). It also gives alarm to indicate the levels of the process and control variables. It uses special software to get the data and communication protocols to interact with the field devices. Enterprise level performs the tasks like scheduling, orders and sales, product planning, etc.

What are types of industrial automation?

Industrial automation systems are categorized based on their integration level and flexibility in the manufacturing processes and operations. Different types of automation systems include:

Fixed Automation

Fixed automation systems are utilized in high volume production settings that have dedicated equipment. The equipment has fixed operation sets and is designed to perform efficiently with the operation sets. This type of automation is mainly used in discrete mass production and continuous flow systems like paint shops, distillation processes, transfer lines and conveyors. All these processes rely on mechanized machinery to perform their fixed and repetitive operations to achieve high production volumes.

Programmable Automation

Programmable automation systems facilitate changeable operation sequences and machine configuration using electronic controls. With programmable automation, non-trivial programming efforts are required to reprogram sequence and machine operations. Since production processes are not changed often, programmable automation systems tend to be less expensive in the long run. This type of system is mainly used in low job variety and medium-to-high product volume settings. It may also be used in mass production settings like paper mills and steel rolling mills.

Flexible Automation

Flexible automation systems are utilized in computer-controlled flexible manufacturing systems. Human operators enter high-level commands in the form of computer codes that identify products and their location in the system’s sequence to trigger automatic lower-level changes. Every production machine receives instructions from a human-operated computer. The instructions trigger the loading and unloading of necessary tools before carrying out their computer-instructed processes. Once processing is completed, the end products are transferred to the next machine automatically. Flexible industrial automation is used in batch processes and job shops with high product varieties and low-to-medium job volumes.

IntegratedAutomation

Integrated industrial automation involves the total automation of manufacturing plants where all processes function under digital information processing coordination and computer control. It comprises technologies like:

  • Computer-aided process planning
  • Computer-supported design and manufacturing
  • Flexible machine systems
  • Computer numerical control machine tools
  • Automated material handling systems, like robots
  • Automatic storage and retrieval systems
  • Computerized production and scheduling control
  • Automated conveyors and cranes

Additionally, an integrated automation system can integrate a business system via a common database. That is, it supports the full integration of management operations and processes using communication and information technologies. Such technologies are utilized in computer integrated manufacturing and advanced process automation systems. When considering the right system for your business, the degree of industrial automation required for any manufacturing facility should be determined by the labor conditions, competitive pressure, manufacturing and assembly specifications, work requirements and the cost of labor. By taking these factors into consideration, you can ensure that your industrial software automation investment will be justified by a consistent profit increase.

Industrial Automation Equipment

Sensors and Actuators

A sensor senses the various process variables and converts them into the electrical or optical signals. These sensors include temperature, pressure, velocity, flow, etc. Actuators convert the electrical signals to the mechanical means to gain control over processes. These include the relays, magnets, servomotors, etc.

Industrial computers

Programmable Logic controllers (PLC’s) also called as industrial computers are capable of being programmed to perform certain control functions. It consists of a CPU or processor, I/O modules (both analog and digital) to connect the various input/output devices and relay modules. These may be modular which is of fixed type or integrated types to extend modules based on the inputs available. Along with the PLC’s, conventional PC’s are used to control the process by online or by changing the programs. PLC’s comes with dedicated software to program the control strategy.

HMI(Human Machine Interface)

HMI’s offers the facilities like, displaying the information on computer screens and other displays, logging the results in the database, giving alarm signal, etc. It uses technologies like SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) and other visual based technologies.

Communication system

In industries many sensors, actuators, controlling PC’s and other control devices are geographically distributed and interacting with each other via several data buses. There are three types of buses used in the industrial automation i.e., factory bus, process bus, and the field bus. Field bus interacts between field instruments and the control devices while the process bus connects the supervising level computers to the control devices like PLC’s. Factory bus connects the higher level of the organization to the supervising level. Different protocols are used for the communications like RS-485, Profibus, CAN control Modbus, etc.

Why Industrial Automation is important?

Automation in the industrial workplace provides the advantages of improving productivity and quality while reducing errors and waste, increasing safety, and adding flexibility to the manufacturing process. In the end, industrial automation yields increased safety, reliability, and profitability.

Why you need to invest in Industrial Automation?

  1. Reduce Worker Fatigue and Effort or Labor-Intensive Operation – Typically, humans dislike banal, repetitive tasks. However, computer systems perform them without complaint. Tasks that lack variability provide a place for automated systems to shine, but this also holds true for systems utilizing advanced sensors and integration. If the task requires conditions not suited to human comfort or focus, consider automation.
  2. Prevent Products or Materials from Being Damaged or Destroyed – Humans make mistakes when they fatigue. This embodies the sentiment of the “human condition.” Mistakes using tools mean damaging raw materials, components, assemblies, and end products.
  3. Prevent Non-conforming Product from Shipping – Computers controlling robots do not forget steps. Neglecting to put in a screw requires a human touch. A machine not doing it yields an error to be addressed. Does the process require doing something in a specific order to improve yield? Automated systems will not violate the instruction set. Moreover, automated systems may employ inspection capabilities. Tune the system and allow the data to roll in without preference or bias.
  4. Increase Efficiency – Improving processes for efficiency makes a company more competitive, but do people always do the same thing, in the same way, every time they do it? No, human variation exists. Automated systems allow for improvements that benefit from consistent execution. Perfect planning and training do not defend against the human touch.
  5. Collect Better Data – Remove the accidental data entry or missed data point from logging. Make the method of collecting sensor and process data regulated.
  6. Improve Metrics – Sending reliable data directly to a database provides an ongoing resource. Does the process improve with changes? Why do I see more failures now than in the past? Leveraging data can provide these answers beyond a simple list of pass/fail statistics from the past. Correlation of associated process data with pass/fail records provides insight rather than guessing “what is causing this?”.
  7. Devise the Right Process Improvements – Automated systems now collect reliable data. The database provides a searchable forum. What comes next? Equipped with copious amounts of reliable data, engineers make the most of this information. Where problems existed, light shines on the problem. Rather than just changing to seek “continuous improvement,” make changes with better information.
  8. Save Money – Why instrument that test stand? Why log that data? Why spend the money now? Simply, investing in industrial automation yields cost savings through making processes more reliable and collecting data for making confident business decisions.
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From concept to production

Patsa Industry Company, relying on the most advanced technology in the world, offers the most comprehensive and optimal engineering solutions in the field of industrial automation and supply of equipment needed for control systems and monitoring of industrial processes and manufacturing lines. We have the exclusive representation of well-known brands such as ADVANTECH and WAGO as well as technical support of these companies as a technical supplier for System Integrator partners that can provide technical support during project implementation if needed. We provide all the necessary consulting and training services to the end users and system operating entities as well. Patsa Industry works with you to identify cost-effective automation solutions that match your specifications. Most importantly, Patsa Industry delivers high-quality industrial automation services to our customers within the budgeted schedule and cost.