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The technique of operating or controlling a process with the help of automatic equipment can be defined as automation. In other words, use of technological applications to oversee and manage a production process. Automation is used in all kinds of industry, namely, manufacturing (pharmaceutical, food industry, or petroleum), transportation, utilities (electricity, water, and gas), defense, and facility operations, like security, or energy management.

Types of Automation:

  • Fixed Automation: The aim is to automate a constant sequence of processing or assembly operations with the help of special purpose equipment. The operations in the sequence are generally straightforward and easy. When multiple such operations are integrated into one piece of equipment, it results in a complex system.

Fixed automation gives company results, like low unit cost, automated material handling, and higher production rate. Yet, one should keep in mind that it entails high investment in the initial stages and inflexibility in adapting to product changes in future.

  • Programmable Automation: Provides the ability to change the sequence of operations so that the equipment can accommodate different product configurations. The operation sequence is monitored with a set of coded instructions in the form of a program, which the system can read and interpret.

This gives the company advantages like flexibility when dealing with variations in designs and is quite suitable for batch production. Programmable automation is accompanied by high investment in general purpose equipment and has a lower production rate than fixed automation.

  • Flexible Automation: Treated as an extension of programmable automation, this consists of a flexible automated system that manufactures a variety of products without any loss of time due to switching of products; even if it requires reprogramming or changing the physical set up.

The advantage of applying this particular system is that production is continuous and a variety of products can be manufactured simultaneously. Like programmable automation, it offers flexibility regarding design variations. Yet, flexible automation requires high investment and results in higher unit cost when compared to fixed automation. It initiates a medium rate of production.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Automation:


  • Reduced production time: An automated machine accelerates the production process, as the machine doesn’t require time to think. It is more constant with its production process and nullifies human error.

  • Accuracy and constancy: The same specific instructions are followed precisely during production, which leads to greater accuracy and reliability in terms of the product.

  • Reduces human error: With automation, the margin of human error can be reduced considerably, as repetition of the production process results in accuracy.

  • Better waste management: Automated machines can be more precise about the amount of raw material required for production, therefore, significantly decreasing waste.

  • Increased safety: With automation, fewer employees have to perform tasks that are harmful or injurious to their safety.

  • The volume of production: Automated machine accelerates production, hence increasing both the volume of production and profitability.

The disadvantages of automation though few are quite noteworthy.

  • As machines are assigned with a certain task, there is no room for flexibility.

  • Operating a large number of machines requires fuel or gas, which in turn, leads to pollution.

  • Considerably high initial investment.

  • The increase in automation leads to decrease in employees, causing an increase in unemployment.


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