Automation in Production Systems

Some elements of the firm’s production system are likely to be automated, whereas others will be operated manually or clerically. For our purposes here, automation can be defined as a technology concerned with the application of mechanical, electronic and computer-based systems to operate and control production.

The automated elements of the production system can be separated into two categories:

    1. Automation of the manufacturing systems in factory

    2. Computerization of the manufacturing support systems.

Automated Manufacturing Systems:

Automated Manufacturing Systems operate in the factory on the physical product. They perform operations such as processing, assembly, inspection or material handling. In some cases accomplishing more than one of these operations in the same system. They are called automated because they perform their operations with a reduced level of human participation compared with the corresponding manual process. Examples of automated manufacturing systems include:

  • Automated machine tools that process parts
  • Transfer lines that perform a series of machining operations
  • Automated Assembly Systems
  • Manufacturing systems that use industrial robots to perform processing or assembly operations
  • Automatic material handling and storage systems to integrate manufacturing operations
  • Automatic inspection systems for quality control

Types of Automated Manufacturing Systems:

Automated Manufacturing Systems can be classified into three types:

    1. Fixed Automation

    2. Programmable Automation

    3. Flexible Automation

Fixed Automation:

Fixed Automation is a system in which the sequence of processing is fixed by the equipment configuration. Each of the operations in the sequence is usually simple. It involves a plan linear or rotational motion or an uncomplicated combination of the two.

Programmable Automation:

In Programmable Automation, the production equipment is designed with the capability to change the sequence of operations to accommodate different product configurations. The operation sequence is controlled by a program, which is a set of instructions coded so that they can be read and interpreted by the system. New program can be prepared and entered into the equipment to produce new products.

Flexible Automation:

Flexible Automation is an extension of programmable automation. It is capable of producing a variety of parts with virtually no time lost for changeovers from one part style to the next. There is no lost production time while reprogramming the system and altering the physical setup. Consequently, the system can produce various combinations and schedules of parts or products instead of requiring that they be made in batches.

Computerized Manufacturing Support Systems:

Automation of the manufacturing support systems is aimed at reducing the amount of manual and clerical effort in product design, manufacturing planning and control and the business functions of the firm. Nearly all modern manufacturing support systems are implemented using computer systems. Indeed, computer technology is used to implement automation of the manufacturing systems in the factory as well. The term computer – integrated manufacturing (CIM) denotes the pervasive use of computer systems to design the products, plan the production, control the operations and perform the various business-related functions needed in a manufacturing firm.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) denotes the use of computer systems to support the product design function. Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) denotes the use of computer systems to perform functions related to manufacturing engineering, such as process planning and numerical control part programming. Some computer systems perform both CAD and CAM and so the term CAD/CAM is used to indicate the integration of the two into one system. It includes CAD/CAM, but it also includes the firm’s business functions that are related to manufacturing.