Industrial automation has evolved remarkably in transforming how industries manufacture products. In fact, every sector in today’s business has found the need to innovate to meet market demands.
Today’s highly competitive business in the industrial sector demands high-quality products at affordable prices. As such, manufacturing industries have moved from manual to automated systems, integrated with technology to produce high-precision and reliable machines.
New technologies used in automation are streamlining industrial operations while reducing costs. At the core of it is the need to minimize errors, make smarter business decisions, and produce high-quality control systems while adhering to environmental requirements.
In this article, we will understand how modern automated systems are developed beyond mechanization with the addition of information technology.
Industrial Automation and Industry 4.0
In a broader sense, automation is using computer software and other technology processes to carry out tasks that humans would have otherwise done. However, the term “Industrial automation” is the control of the physical processes using control systems to automate industrial tasks.
The early automated system was focused on productivity by extending work hours and reducing the cost of managing a large human workforce. The rising investment companies’ digital technologies are driving market opportunities.
According to a recent report by Insight Partners, the automation industrial sector is expected to cap a total valuation of $322.67 billion by 2030. It is estimated to hit a CAGR valuation of 8.2% between 2022 and 2030.
The first industrial computer machines, like CNC (Computer Numerical Controls), were used for high precision in aerospace manufacturing. Though it required extensive human effort. Still, it was a big deal in the early 1950s.
Today, automated systems have fully evolved. With the advent of technology, the goal has gradually shifted. Manufacturers are now more than ready to innovate, focusing on improving quality and flexibility.
The addition of Industry 4.0 even makes manufacturing more exciting. It has revolutionized how industries manufacture, improve, and distribute their products. Manufacturing industries have now integrated digital technologies into their product facilities and operations.
Industry 4.0 and the Technology Behind It
We cannot think of the digital revolution without considering Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The concept is part of our everyday lives, from smartphones to sensors to artificial Intelligence and robotics.
In fact, the technology brings an entirely new relationship between man and machines with a new efficiency level.
Industry 4.0 technologies are practically in every factory with an innovative mindset. The competitive demand in the market has made factories want to replace manual inspection models with AI-powered control systems to reduce errors, reduce costs, and save time.
For example, the Automated Turbine Control System, widely used by power generation companies, can employ precision control algorithms and sensors to fine-tune industrial operations.
We are now witnessing a new era of smart factories with advanced sensors, control systems, and other digital technologies to collect and analyze data for better decision-making. The goal is to improve efficiency, reduce operational costs, and enhance product quality.
However, the technology that constitutes Industry 4.0 can be traced back to the era of Industry 3.0, where digitalization began by embedding PLCs into machinery to help automate some processes.
These technologies have helped industries improve their automation processes. It has yielded precise results, minimized errors, and optimized process improvement. Above all, a new level of efficiency and responsiveness to customers is achieved.
Here are the key enabling technologies of Industrial 4.0:
Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet of Service (IoS)
The Internet of Things is a great enabler of Smart Factories. They help create a smart manufacturing environment through the interconnection of physical devices, buildings, cars, and other entities equipped with sensors, electronics, and actuators.
Additionally, the concept of Internet of Service applies to services rather than physical assets. The idea of IoS opens new technological prospects for service-oriented businesses to create an operational pathway between service providers and clients.
However, the expansion of IoT to the industrial context gave manufacturers several opportunities to build highly sophisticated autonomous systems. For instance, sensors built into machines can detect overheating in a production line. The IoT sensor can automatically send information to other components to adjust machine operation to prevent overheating.
Cloud computing has become increasingly popular, especially in the discussion of IoT. In fact, cloud technologies are now being discussed as great enablers of industrial automation. The automation industry has witnessed unprecedented transformation. Today, organizations are recognizing the benefits of cloud-based services in delivering custom applications that can automate complex processes. Leveraging PaaS, SaaS, and IaaS can help industries efficiently scale and produce quality products.
Big Data and Analytics
The growing role of big data in automation cannot be overemphasized. As factories are moving towards smart manufacturing, a vast amount of data is generated and utilized, which becomes crucial in optimizing operations. With sensors that determine errors, we can know when to take them for routine maintenance. Most importantly, to remain prepared for a complete failure. For instance, the Keyence LK Series features laser displacement sensor heads, which allow the user to obtain precise measurements. Also, various controllers and cables come with sensor heads to help facilitate the production line.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have become agents of change in automation industries. AI and ML are enabling manufacturing to become more automated, bringing quality, speed, and efficiency while driving down the cost of operation. Many factories have deployed computer vision technology with AI capabilities to improve manufacturing throughput and quality.
With so much data generated as companies move towards Industry 4.0, data theft is bound to happen. Anytime an industrial process is automated, an industrial control system is the engine beneath. So much convenience has been derived from technology. As such, cybersecurity should be at the forefront of our industrial processes. Imagine a catastrophic consequence from a crippled power grid or hijacked air traffic control system. Lives or property could be lost.
The potential of industrial automation can be further enhanced by introducing cyber-physical systems, CPS. CPS can connect physical and digital components that interact with each other to enable automation across several manufacturing sectors. By leveraging highly sophisticated sensors, CPS can monitor and automate industrial processes in real-time, allowing accuracy in analyzing real-time data.
The automation industrial sector has witnessed a massive transformation ever since the birth of the fourth industrial revolution. The growing demand for enhanced quality and high productivity has brought the need for manufacturing companies to innovate.
With the help of digital technologies, industries can stay competitive, and automation systems can help organizations produce high-quality products efficiently.