A Brief History
We might assume automation to be a modern concept. However, that is not really the case. The term automatic came into action in 1947, when Ford had established an automation department.
The concept itself though is much older. Scientists classify this as industry 1.0 - 4.0 with each having key milestones.
Automation has a history from 300 BC with Aristotle and the Greeks. They described a float regulator for a water clock as an example of automation. While this was theoretical, the First Industrial Revolution (industry 1.0) occurred in the 18th century.
Industry 1.0 saw the introduction of steam power and mechanization. Automation gained some popularity during the industrial revolution in western Europe. The idea of prime movers and self-driven machines came from this period.
The 19th century saw the introduction of electricity. This was the beginning of the Second Industrial Revolution. Mass production was introduced and factory floors transformed.
The Third Industrial Revolution occurred in the 20th century. The first and second world wars saw some further transformations, especially in the field of mass communication and signal processing. With time came the computer age, and eventually smartphones.
Modern automation continues to evolve with IoT being the newest flavor. These are the early stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution where cyber-physical systems and information will play a larger role. Here intelligent and automated systems will receive network connections, further improving their efficiencies.
The Benefits of Automation
The main advantage of automation is efficiency and cost. The advantages of automation do not stop there. It has also increased the quality of the products being produced. Companies that have invested in automation have realized significant gains in market share.
Consumers are in fact, willing to pay more for a product that is guaranteed to meet their needs:
- in terms of features,
- the simplicity of use, and
- length of service
For businesses, this has improved their profits while at the same time, reducing their human capital costs. Other advantages of automation include improved safety and more efficient use of materials.
Automation, when applied to AI and machines, has removed repetitive, physical tasks from the workforce. These tasks that can be better done by machines, has let labor specialize in other areas. This often provides a more motivated workforce with higher job satisfaction.
Manufacturing companies can benefit greatly from automation. Machines will be able to perform repetitive functions that do not require oversight. In addition, many of these operations are located in hazardous and dangerous locations. Machines can function in these environments at less risk of harm.
Another significant advantage of Industry 4.0 is that machines will have the capability of alerting based on specific conditions. Based on issues and problems, they can initiate corrective steps to ensure that manufacturing services are not impacted.
Limitations to Automation
Technology comes with advantages, but sadly there are often some disadvantages to automation. A focus on these negatives often leads to innovative solutions helping to negate their impact.
Automation leads to an increased risk of security. Individuals and companies that utilize automation to a high degree, need to take care to account for this. Careless mistakes can have significant consequences in this area.
Another major drawback to automation is the initial investment required. It is quite difficult to predict exact costs with automation. Some elements that can be estimated include:
- hardware costs,
- infrastructure costs,
- process adjustment costs, and
- people costs - both in hiring new staff and retraining existing resources. With people cost, there is the potential longer-term displacement and retraining cost that should also be accommodated.
Custom Software for Manufacturers
In large businesses, custom software are required to realize the benefits of automation. These solutions help the enterprise to provide the correct information to users timely and effectively. This is where Konverge can help.
Having access to the right information helps make teams more efficient. By having the right information accessible, the decision-making process is improved and your business will run efficiently.
Konverge can also provide you with custom software that’s unique to your industry. It can meet businesses specific requirements. This is unlike off the shelf solutions, which are built to the lowest common denominator. A customized solution by contrast:
- meets your specific business requirements,
- integrates with tools and systems that your business uses,
- is customized to account for your own internal processes.
Automation, when associated with technologies like IoT, could lead to unforeseen risk. Using a custom software developer like Konverge helps ensure that many of the risks associated with automation are addressed. Konverge has the ability to provide you with custom software that will automate your operations.
Industry 4.0 and automation continue to gain in popularity and momentum. Businesses around the world need to look for the most cost-effective solution.
Industry 4.0 helps businesses realize efficiencies as it simplifies complex tasks. Perhaps most importantly, automation makes companies more efficient, which improves their profit and market share. Because of this, custom software needs to be a key component of any manufacturer’s business strategy.