Just a couple of decades ago, factories used to employ thousands of people to perform all the tasks. Over time, the number of workers has been decreasing. It became possible because of the advancement of mechanization, and later, automation.
Automation is nowadays one of the trends that are changing the industry immensely. Many monotonous processes are already performed by robots. In locations that pose a danger to human health or life, also mostly robots are used. It is not surprising because nowadays, robots can perform many functions:
- They can pull or push the objects;
- Such a small element as a lift actuator enables the machines to lift the objects;
- Robotic arms are good at picking and placing objects.
Thus, the main operations are covered. In some advanced factories, human work is applied only when creativity or non-standard decisions are needed. Other than that, automated systems perform many works.
So, let us have a look at the main benefits that the robots bring, the major trends in industry automation nowadays, and check what the perspectives are.
Benefits of Automation in industry
Automation requires significant investments, thus, there must be serious reasons to start with automation processes in a factory. However, if you check, you will discover that there are plenty of crucial benefits that robots bring. Among the most crucial of them are the following:
- They speed up the manufacturing process immensely because they don’t get tired and can work day and night. In many cases, they also perform operations much faster than people;
- They don’t get sick thus, the work is performed without interruptions and additional expenditures;
- They don’t get bored or distracted, thus, accidents don’t happen;
- Extra time doesn’t have to be paid, well, robots don’t get salaries at all;
- Also, robots replace people in places where it is dangerous which is one of the most valuable features, indeed.
Based on all those benefits, we can already see what results industrial automation can lead. More products can be manufactured within a significantly shorter time. And the manufacturing expenses are reduced immensely. These reasons are good enough to make any factory owner automate its facilities ASAP.
Main trends in the Automation industry
In the factories, several types of automation tools are applied. While in some facilities, one or two types might be applied, in others, you will find the entire range of them. Let us have a look at the most used ones.
SCADA, or supervisory control and data acquisition
SCADA performs controlling functions. It collects data and presents them in a form that is easy to understand. The main aim of SCADA is to control production processes. It enables control of all the manufacturing processes in real-time mode.
HMI, or human-machine interface
It is also a system that performs controlling functions. While earlier, you would use sight glasses, knobs, etc., now, all these functions are performed by machines. Those are PC, laptops, mobile phones, and even devices that support augmented reality.
ANN, or artificial neural network
An ANN is a type of AI (artificial intelligence). These machines collect and analyse huge volumes of data. Based on it, they learn how to handle most of the standard, and in some cases, even non-standard situations.
For example, in manufacturing, an ANN can be used to distinguish items that comply with all the standards and those that do not. And this specific case is when machines are much more efficient than people.
AI, or artificial intelligence
The main task of AI for industrial robots is to make them learn to adapt to industrial conditions. While now, the environment is specifically changed to adopt robots, in the future, the development and application of AI will allow robots to adapt to the environment.
Robots have been used for a while but now, they are becoming smarter and capable of many more operations. They are easy to program, and in some cases, are much more efficient than people. Of course, it is early to speak about a complete replacement of people by robots. But these machines are becoming irreplaceable indeed in most manufacturing processes.
2020 might be a real turning point in the automation of industry. The rapid development of AI, wireless technologies, robots, etc., is contributing to the further implementation of machines in all the industrial processes.
Now, machines work in many processes that are based on monotonous movements and procedures or there, where the situations are standard (quality control by comparing to a set of requirements). However, machines learn fast. With the technology called machine vision, robots are expected to learn among people safely (now, this is not the case: robots and people still work separately). Also, this technology will boost the development of driverless cars, and other autonomous devices.
Thus, many amazing developments are coming. But the most amazing thing is that factories need to implement those developments if they want to stay afloat.