Factory automation uses advanced computer systems to control applications and functions. It typically starts with a Programmable Logic Controller which converts input from sensors and other devices into instructions for an output system to follow. This can then be linked to a data dashboard to provide real-time information on production performance, with alarms triggered if specific thresholds are exceeded.

In some cases, the information will also be sent to other departments within the company which can take action if production targets are not being met. It may also be used to inform a maintenance schedule so that issues can be identified and fixed before they become serious problems that disrupt production.

One of the biggest benefits of factory automation is that it improves productivity. Ultimately, this leads to better quality products for consumers. For example, automated processes ensure consistency in production, reducing the variation that can be caused by human error. Automated safety measures can also reduce the risk of injury to workers, resulting in a safer working environment.

However, factory automation can go a step further than that. At its most extreme, it can involve a fully automated line which requires no human involvement beyond supervising and maintaining the equipment. This type of setup is often referred to as “lights out” manufacturing, where products can be produced 24 hours a day 365 days a year without any interruptions or delays.

There are different types of factory automation available, including programmable automation which allows for quick changes in product type or quantity by directly linking computer systems to cell controls. There is also flexible automation which can adapt to changes in material availability or demand by using a human-machine interface. And finally, there is robotic automation where robots replace humans in certain tasks such as welding or assembly.

Many of these advances are made possible thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and a broader technology infrastructure that can enable a more connected, smarter workplace. Manufacturers are able to access more information than ever before and use it to make more informed decisions about how their factories operate.

This is helping to drive the market for industrial automation solutions, as companies look to increase efficiency and reduce operational costs. As automation becomes increasingly commonplace in the workplace, businesses need to plan ahead and ensure that their investments are well-made so that they can reap the rewards.

Some factories may choose to combine automation with a degree of human expertise and oversight, for example partially automated manual workstations where simple tasks are automated but trained professionals make the final decision. In the future, we could see more of these hybrid systems where human judgment is valued along with the speed and accuracy of automation. Cheaper, more capable, and flexible technologies are driving this trend and making it more viable for even smaller manufacturers to consider industrial automation.

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