After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Meaning of Automation 2. Types of Automation 3. Advantages 4. Disadvantages 5. Suitability.
Meaning of Automation:
The term ‘Automation’ is relatively new in the language of management and this word was first used at the Ford Motor Company in the late 1940.
‘Automation’ may be defined as “the moving of the procession of materials and parts in and out of machines, and operating of the machines automatically, all without human control. It requires that the machines, tooling and mechanical handling devices between machines be so integrated so as to become one continuous machine”.
The term ‘automation’ means different things to different people. Some people consider it to be automatic loading of the machines. While others take it as automatic push button factory.
Automation is something more than just mechanisation. Mechanisation means doing by machine what previously was done by muscles. It also removes human watching, thinking and reacting from routine machine operations.
But in automation ‘Machine Operators’ are no longer required to load, put the machine through its cycle, unload, inspect, make any machine corrections found necessary, and send the part on its way to the next operation. All these steps are performed by instruments, mechanical and electronic devices or other means of control which feed, operate and link machines together into an automatic process.
Types of Automation:
These are of three types:
(i) Continuous Automation.
(ii) Segmented Automation.
(iii) Non-manufacturing Automation.
(i) Continuous Automation:
This type is mostly concerned with homogeneous materials, i.e. liquid gases and pulverized substances that will flow or convey throughout the whole process, such as in chemical plants and oil refineries. They are operated from the control boards and closely approximate the push-button plants.
Here the instruments measure, record and control volumes, weight, flow, pressure, humidity, temperature etc. and in some cases take corrective measure when something starts going out of control.
(ii) Segmented Automation:
It means intermittent automation of section of a process, fabrication or assembly with intervals between automated equipment. This type is used where it is not practically possible to automate the whole process, fabrication or assembly.
(iii) Non-Manufacturing Automation:
This includes office automation and integrated data processing mechanism, and automatic elevators with electronic terms and defectors and transportation ticket selling equipment and ‘electronic supervisors’, which schedule on and off operations. An electronic computer computes an employee’s retirement records in one hour, which otherwise would take huge labour.
Advantages of Automation:
The following are main advantages:
1. Greater output per rupee of labour.
2. More output per rupee invested in facilities.
3. Lesser floor space is required.
4. Increased safety for operators.
5. Automatic production schedules.
6. Increased uniform quality.
7. It transfers skill knowledge and efforts from man to machine, therefore, high rate of production.
8. Less scrap.
9. Less inventories.
10. It requires very less expert staff, rest semi-skilled workers.
11. It is beneficial to the general public, as it raises the income of individuals.
Disadvantages of Automation:
These can be:
1. Greater capital investment.
2. Less manufacturing flexibility.
3. During less demand the management cannot use the automated plant for any other purpose.
4. The immediate effect of automation is increased unemployment.
5. Expensive down time, as the failure of one part may result in the shutdown of the whole line where automation is there.
Suitability of Automated Plants:
Automated plants are suitably employed in the following cases:
(i) Where a product design is stable for such a long period in which the cost of automation can be written off.
(ii) Where the volume for continuous manufacture is adequate and steady for a fairly long time so as to make the installation economical, profitable and to permit the use of single purpose equipment.
(iii) Where the manufacturing method demands a high degree of manual work, and adoption of automation presents attractive cost saving potential.
(iv) Where the machines are so complex or work at such a high speed, that it is not possible to work with efficiency by manual methods.
(v) Where the product is so hazardous that it cannot possibly be controlled by manual methods, e.g. radioactive materials.
In short automation is not practically economical if the volume of production is small or where there is a great variety of products manufactured in the plant or where one operators cannot operate several machines efficiently.