Whether it’s for safety, efficiency, or to create products with better quality, factory automation is becoming a vital component of modern manufacturing. It combines technology, sensors, and computers that oversee machines and processes in a plant to minimize human involvement while optimizing operations. There are several types of factory automation systems, each with different benefits depending on the product and company’s needs.
Often called “lights out” factories, these operate 24 hours a day 365 days a year without the need for any human employees. With this type of system, a manufacturer can produce finished goods at higher speeds than would be possible with a production line that requires constant oversight by humans to ensure process synchronization and quality control.
Fully automated factories also provide a level of flexibility that allows businesses to adapt their production processes to customer demands and market changes more quickly. This can also result in cost savings by reducing the need for employees to work during slow times or in shifts.
While full factory automation eliminates the need for any employee intervention, many companies still choose to include partial automation. This blends automation with manual processes where simple, repetitive tasks are automated while responsibility for the final outcome – such as ensuring that quality assurance standards are met for what leaves the workstation – remains in the hands of a trained professional. These partially automated processes are common in areas such as manual product assembly and quality assurance, where some companies feel it is important to maintain human expertise and judgment.
Another type of factory automation is the “flexible” system, which is customized according to the type of product being produced. This means that the machine’s software and hardware can be modified as the product design evolves, allowing for faster execution and more precise production. Flexibility can be achieved by using software that allows for the changing of parameters such as speed, temperature, and flow.
This type of automation also includes the ability to connect multiple machines and processes. This allows a data dashboard to be displayed that displays performance across an entire production line, providing information on what is working well and what isn’t. This provides a more accurate, comprehensive view of the operation and can alert users if thresholds are being exceeded.
A key part of this type of factory automation is the programmable logic controller (PAC). PACs are advanced computer systems that can execute complex sequences of events, allowing for a more accurate and precise control of an automated process. This type of automation can also improve the energy efficiency of a factory by reducing waste, saving money on electricity costs.
Global leaders in the factory automation industry like Danfoss, Siemens, and Yaskawa all specialize in engineering and producing innovative technology to make industrial processes more efficient. Despite their diverse histories and beginnings, these brands share the same goal of creating environmentally friendly and reliable products that help improve production efficiency in the factories where they operate around the world.