As technology continues to evolve, and the abilities of artificial intelligence (AI) grow to unimaginable levels, automation is increasingly part of the industrial conversation. 

For years, there have been fears that advances in automation would take jobs away from people. But while it’s true that robotics and machinery are becoming a bigger part of the day-to-day in industrial applications, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

In fact, industrial automation can often be utilized to take on many of the more manual tasks humans have traditionally carried out, freeing your staff up to spend their time at work in more impactful ways.

Industrial automation is a huge market, accounting for a spend of $183 billion in 2020, and is expected to reach $297 billion by 20261. It’s revolutionizing everything from automotive assembly to distribution center picking, manufacturing automation in production lines to maintenance operations. 

By introducing automated processes, you can change the way people work, improving safety, efficiency, and output, while minimizing cost and risk. 

As automation continues to increase its presence, automating certain tasks that don’t necessarily require human input will allow plants to operate smarter, partnering people and technology effectively and efficiently, rather than eliminating the need for on-site staff.  

Discover more about the different applications of industrial automation and the outlook for the future of automation across manufacturing, mining and other sectors with Henkel. 

What Is Industrial Automation?

Industrial automation refers to the adoption of control systems or information technologies, including robots and computers, to replace or improve human input across specific tasks. 

Automation in industry is often used for tasks that are considered more dangerous for humans, or for those that can be done in a more time and cost-efficient manner by machinery.

Its inception was caused by a desire to improve productivity levels and reduce operating costs across various industries, including manufacturing, mining and repairs. The ability of machinery to be operational 24/7, without the need for breaks or benefits, accelerated the early uptake. 

As the notion of industrial automation control develops, goals like quality and flexibility in manufacturing have also become larger focal points.

Types of Industrial Automation

The most common setting for industrial automation is in manufacturing operations, where companies will typically bring automated manufacturing systems into the production line. The reason for this is simple – machines can maintain consistent manufacturing quality, as well as monitoring production with greater accuracy and efficiency than humans. 

This reduces mistakes, which enhances reliability.

Different types of industrial automation can be seen across industries and applications. Some of the best examples of automation in industry include: 

  • Automated stacking systems
  • Pipe flange inspections
  • Adhesive dispensing systems
  • Automated forklift and haul trucks
  • Error, fault, and breakdown inspections

As computing, robotics, and artificial intelligence become more evolved, there’s a high likelihood we see it become more prevalent across a wider range of industries. In fact, the future of automation in manufacturing and other sectors could be bolstered by the rise of industry 4.0. 

How Has Automation Changed Industries?

Industrial automation and data processing techniques have been key in many operations for years. And as the Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure continues to develop across industries, it’s only going to have a greater influence on more operations and processes. 

Utilizing automation in industrial operations helps organizations achieve the highest level of autonomy in their maintenance systems, offering many benefits.

Increased Productivity

By far the biggest plus point of industrial automation is the increase in productivity that goes with it. Robots, computers, and machines can carry out tasks with increased consistency and can work around the clock. This can boost plant output and lower lead times, compared to those powered by a manual workforce.

Automated technology can also be used to cut the time it takes to carry out time-consuming yet essential maintenance tasks, such as inspecting pipe flanges for leaks. 

A human inspector would not only have to spend time inspecting each individual pipe flange, but also walking between each pipe. Over a month or a year, this can quickly add up. Automating the process can cut that time, as well as improving accuracy in detecting leaks, and freeing up time for the workers normally responsible to take on other, more skilled jobs. 


Quality and Consistency

Integrating several quality checks into one, automation makes maintaining consistent quality across your output much easier and more reliable. 

Computers do not tire, unlike humans, meaning their output remains uniform and consistent throughout the day. Such examples of automation also reduce the risk of error in manual tasks, with physical or mental fatigue non-existent.

Improved Accuracy

State-of-the art computers and data storage systems can gather and collate key information and metrics in your plant. Automating such processes leads to improved data accuracy that allows for more informed decisions to be made. What’s more, having automated systems collect and collate leaves human operatives free to do more of the strategic thinking. 

Skilled mechanics will be able to spend more time on crucial analysis to enhance your operations, rather than menial tasks such as inspections that they would have done in the past. 


Employee Safety

Some jobs in your production line may require handling toxic, heavy, or dangerous items. By automating these processes, you take workers out of the equation and lower the level of risk they face, improving plant safety levels. This keeps people happy and healthy, while also minimizing the risk of unplanned downtime and associated costs arising from worker injuries. 

Automated stacking systems, for example, can eliminate the risk of falls, as does robotic scaffolding when used to inspect flanges that are higher up. This way, your workers can remain on the ground and examine data and sensor readouts, obtaining and actioning the same level of information without enduring the risk. 

In the mining and quarrying industry, automation of processes can remove the need for truck haul drivers and the dangers involved too.


What Industries Benefit From Industrial Automation?

Industrial automation examples are emerging in many industries, due to its varied benefits. These include: 

  • Power generation, oil and gas, or metal processing – Automation systems can combine several tasks, speed up processes and improve the safety of working environments where dangerous chemicals and heavy-duty machinery are present. 
  • Manufacturing – Moving the installation of pistons in a car engine from a manual to an automated task, for example, can cut the error rate to less than 1%2
  • Healthcare – Potentially one of the biggest opportunities for future automation. AI can ease time pressure on doctors and nurses by providing easier access to patient status and other vital information to assist their treatment. From automating medication production and pharmaceutical distribution to relieving nurses of repetitive tasks such as making beds, the possibilities for robotics within healthcare settings are huge.

Discover more about how Henkel supports the ongoing growth of the power and automation sector. For help finding the right solution, browse our maintenance and repair services, or contact an expert below to find out more. 

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