Automation has become almost indispensable in manufacturing. Any manufacturing plant that has not automated some of its operations is bound to be lagging behind in terms of production as well as growth.
Automated systems in a factory or manufacturing plant perform tasks such as the following:
- Handling of materials
Some systems are programmed to perform multiple operations. Many company owners do equate automation to manufacturing. There are, however, a few types of automation in production that that need to be explained.
Types of Automation in Production
There are three types of automation in production. These are:
- Fixed/hard automation
- Programmable automation
- Flexible automation
With this type of automation, the manufacturing operations are fixed by the configuration of the equipment. The machines and other hardware do not easily change from one function or product to another one.
The commands which are programmed are to be found in machine hardware such as gears, wiring as well as cameras. This automation is distinguished by:
- High initial investment
- High production rates
It is, consequently, the best automation for products that are produced in large volumes. Industries that would benefit greatly from manufacturing automation of this calibre include:
- Varieties of chemical processes
- The automotive industry
- Automatic assembly machines
This one gives you your products in batches which are packed in quantities that range from a few dozens to thousands of units per production.
The production equipment utilised in each batch is reprogrammed and then converted to give room to a different product style. This takes time and the rate is lower than that of fixed automation as a result because of the equipment created to make change over possible.
This type of automation is an extension of programmable automation. As mentioned earlier, programmable automation has the disadvantage of time due to the time need for reprogramming and changeover resulting in loss of production time. In business, time is indeed money.
Flexible automation limits a range of products just enough for the changeover of equipment to be done fast and automatically. The equipment is reprogrammed offline meaning that it is done on a PC without the need to have the production equipment present.
As a result, you can have varieties of products processed instead of having to group the same products into batches.
The Automated Production Line:
A number of workstations are connected via a transfer system to move products from one station to the next. This is the automated production line. This one depicts fixed automation seeing as the lines are built for lengthy production runs and they run for many years making myriads of products.
Every station has its specific operation which means every process on the production line is a step. It begins at one point at which a process is performed. Once it is completed, it moves on to the nest stage for the next process. This goes on until the final product emerges in its completed state.
The operations and changeovers must take place seamlessly on the production line for it to work efficiently.
Automated production lines are controlled logic controllers which can be programmed. These are special computers that make connections possible with equipment such as production lines. They are efficient performing functions such as timing that are crucial for the operation of production lines.
These lines are used in industries such as the automotive industry to perform processes such as machining (the removal of metal using a shaping or cutting tool) as well as pressworking (cutting and forming parts from sheet metal).
Manufacturing automation is crucial for the future of manufacturing plants especially if a company is to have a fighting chance with the competition. The only way to stay ahead is to ensure that the quality of your products remains top-notch.
This can only be possible these days through automation. It is therefore important to understand various aspects of automation as well as the types in order to make the right choice for your manufacturing plant.