Types of Industrial Automation

There are three main types of industrial automation: fixed automation, programmable automation, and flexible automation. Additional types of automation with industrial applications include robotic process automation, integrated automation, process automation, and totally integrated automation.

Are you trying to learn more about industrial automation? Perhaps you’re trying to figure out how to upgrade an existing automated process, or you’re trying to expand your business by implementing new automated processes.

Keep reading to learn the basics of manufacturing and industrial automation types. To find out more about technologies used in automation, continue reading here.

Access Industrial Automation will explain more about each type of automation, its benefits and drawbacks, and some examples of applications.

Manufacturing and Industrial Automation Types

There are different types of automation with manufacturing and industrial applications: fixed (hard) automation, programmable automation, flexible (soft) automation, integrated automation, process automation, totally integrated automation (TIA), and robotic process automation (RBA).

We’ll explore each type of automation and the pros and cons of each type. We’ll also list possible applications, including manufacturing and industrial.

Fixed (Hard) Automation

Fixed automation is an automation configuration that is set up to do a single, or fixed purpose. Hard Automation is another name for fixed automation. Making changes to a fixed manufacturing process to accommodate different product designs is difficult.

Pros of Fixed Automation

  • Each unit produced has a low cost.
  • Less maintenance of the automation is required.
  • Fixed automation produces a lot of a specific product quickly.
  • Consistency 

Cons of Fixed Automation

  • The installation costs for fixed automation are high, especially considering how difficult it is to reconfigure fixed automation set-ups.
  • Making changes, even small ones, is difficult with fixed automation.
  • Fixed automation is becoming more obsolete as more flexible systems become available.

Fixed Automation Examples

  • Generic production needs with a high demand
  • Products that require no changes between batches
  • Automated material handling
  • Continuous production models
  • Mechanized assembly

Programmable Automation

Programmable automation is when a program and/or robotic equipment controls the manufacturing process. This type of automation can be reprogrammed between batches to accommodate variations in products that can be created using the same equipment with a different configuration.

Pros of Programmable Automation

  • Programmable automation is great for products made in batches.
  • Programmable automation is flexible enough to handle design variations.
  • Programming is easier than some other automation types.

Cons of Programmable Automation

  • Equipment for programmable automation is expensive.
  • Changing functions or products is time-consuming and creates downtime.
  • Programmable automation produces fewer units in each production cycle compared to fixed automation.

Programmable Automation Examples

  • Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs)
  • Intelligent robotic machines
  • Computer numerical controlled (CNC) tools/ Numerical control (NC) tools
  • Industrial robots
  • Logistical programming
  • Paper and steel mills
  • Thermostats
  • Traditional cruise control

Flexible (Soft) Automation

Flexible automation uses robotic equipment and a central computer to allow smooth transitions between processed and/or products. Computer codes are used to trigger changes in the process. Human operators are responsible for giving the codes or instructions.

Pros of Flexible Automation

  • More flexible than fixed or programmable automation
  • Handles in-demand production
  • Product flexibility
  • Various product types can be produced in sequence

Cons of Flexible Automation

  • Cost of custom machinery and programming
  • Each unit produced costs more

Flexible Automation Examples

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Multipurpose computer numerical controlled (CNC) machines 
  • Warehouse automation
  • Industrial robots
  • Self-learning thermostats
  • Robotic arms that are programmed to do multiple automated tasks

Integrated Automation 

Integrated automation simultaneously controls multiple processes to automate all of the processes involved in manufacturing completely. Communication is streamlined between automated processes to reduce the complexity of coordinating independent processes.

Pros of Integrated Automation

  • Unification of multiple automation systems
  • Can be used with continuous-process and batch manufacturing 

Cons of Integrated Automation

  • Expensive installation and maintenance
  • Needs to be monitored by skilled labor

Examples of Integrated Automation

  • Flexible machining systems
  • Computer-aided design (CAD)
  • Warehouse setup and operations
  • Robotic manufacturing
  • Automated handling of material
  • Computer-aided manufacturing

Totally Integrated Automation (TIA)

Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) is a philosophy of automation and manufacturing. The core components are a common software environment, a common communication method, and a common data management system. TIA is pioneered by Siemens Automation and Drives.

Pros of Totally Integrated Automation (TIA)

  • Less complexity
  • High productivity
  • Lower cost per unit
  • Faster time-to-market

Cons of Totally Integrated Automation (TIA)

  • This is a philosophy more than a tangible system. TIA is more like a set of ideas that can be incorporated into existing automation. 

Possible Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) Examples 

  • Packaging industry
  • Plastics processing
  • Automotive
  • Special-purpose machine manufacturing
  • General machine construction
  • Food & beverage industry

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) uses rule-based logic and structured inputs to automate tasks frequently performed by humans. This technology is not artificial intelligence (AI), even though some people mistakenly believe RBA is AI. 

Pros of Robotic Process Automation

  • Less human labor required
  • Employees are more engaged and satisfied
  • Increased productivity
  • Prevents human errors

Cons of Robotic Process Automation

  • Regular monitoring is required
  • Even robotic process automation requires human input
  • Teaching new employees
  • Difficulty of scheduling systems
  • Very expensive implementation

Examples of Robotic Process Automation

  • Retail
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing 
  • Warehousing

Process Automation

Process Automation combines flexible and integrated automation systems into one system. This system is designed in a way that fixes bottlenecks in process and/or production performance. This type is used more for data mining than physical manufacturing.

Pros of Process Automation

  • Streamlines communication across departments & platforms
  • Increased processing speed
  • Reduced errors and less data loss

Cons of Process Automation

  • Expensive installation
  • Skilled labor needed for implementation
  • Maintenance can be expensive

Process Automation Examples

  • Condition monitoring and I/O
  • Managing data
  • Gathering data
  • Automating repetitive tasks
  • Integrating data sources and services

Access Industrial Automation Services in California

Access Industrial Automation in central California offers automation support services. Whether you need a new system designed and built or updates to an existing system, you can find the service you need. AI Automation is located in Ceres, CA, and serves the surrounding area.

Contact Access Industrial online or by phone by calling 209-577-1491.

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