Digital technologies have been changing our lives for decades. But what is industrial automation all about?? What will the production of the future look like?? Questions that the manufacturing industry must ask itself. Because the further development of the industry is inevitably influenced by it. Changed by the digital transformation. The process of digitalization has shaped the economy worldwide. It is not a question of time when automation will be fully implemented in the industry. We are right in the middle of the digital transformation.
Definition of automation in industry
Automation in industry is used in a wide range of areas. Be it in the digitalization of production facilities or in process control. Automation can be used in a number of different areas:
– Processing and handling operations
– Conveying processes
– Handling and storage processes
– Production planning
– Control processes
The concept of automation involves the takeover of production processes by machines with artificial intelligence.
In automated manufacturing, all processes, such as the machining, monitoring and control of tools and equipment, are carried out by machines or. Implemented electronically through digital systems. Translated, it means the use of automated machines. Automats are in this the digital systems. Manual work is broken down into partially or fully automated processes. Through the intelligent action of a digital system, the workflows of various production steps can be better supported and significantly accelerated. This increases both employee productivity and profitability.
Advantages and disadvantages of automation
On the one hand, automation naturally supports the efficiency of production. On the other hand, it can also mean that some jobs have to be discontinued. This is due to the fact that not all people from the manufacturing industry can be retrained and used to administer, plan and monitor operations. With the provision of new systems, new structures also prevail in the company. Decision-makers should be aware of this.
In addition, new structures require a certain period of acclimatization. Nevertheless, it is time to keep up with the competition. As a pioneer of digitization can no longer be titled as a company. Because the digitalization of business processes has long ceased to be a novelty. And the economy in particular is strongly geared towards it. 93% of German companies are already implementing industrial automation.
Difference between automation and digitalization
Many use the two terms to mean the same thing. This is not entirely true. Digitalization is often strategically anchored. The term digitization describes first of all the digital transformation. All documents and data that were previously printed on paper and filed in binders are scanned and can then be accessed digitally. Office and administrative processes are electronically archived and stored in an audit-proof manner. Digital systems replace the manual search. Simplify document exchange across locations.
A real-world example:
Project documents are distributed over various folder structures. They lie in (mail) boxes, partly printed out in filing cabinets or in the 17. Folder called "Projects_2020_final_4". The consequence of this practice for all process participants is that finding the relevant documents with the latest version is very difficult and time-consuming. With the digitization of project files, extensive projects with numerous documents can now be presented clearly and centrally in one place. All relevant contents are now directly documented. Accessible to all involved.
Efficiently use future technologies in the company with the digital machine file
Automation in industry, on the other hand, is dependent on digitalization. It can only follow as a second step after the digital transformation has already been completed. The transfer of process functions and workflows from humans to digital systems describes the concept of automation in industry. The basic building block for this must be the digitization of the necessary documents. A work process that was previously handled manually by the production employee is now taken over independently by the system. Human intervention is no longer necessary at this point. Thus the process was completely automated.
An example from practice:
One company already has digital project files in use. These are to be taken over on the basis of the production automation. First, the systems are aligned accordingly to the work order. The employees who previously carried out the work steps manually now only check the process. The production processes are now triggered by the system in an error-guiding manner. This can save resources. The expenditure of time as well as the physical load are reduced. While digitization aims to support work digitally, automation can be a stand-alone process for those tasks.
Digitization = digitally support processes and tasks
Automation = run processes and tasks independently and automatically
However, many companies still find it difficult to distinguish between the different terms. A study by Bitkom has shown that both the digitization of paper files, the general support of operational business processes, electronic accounting and document capture and the automation of company-wide business processes are often defined in the same way.
Application examples in the manufacturing industry
Many companies are already clear in their decision to "go digital". However, the first step towards digital transformation is usually the biggest hurdle for many. Excuses such as "we don't have time for that" or "the budget is already planned elsewhere" pay off later on your way of working or make themselves felt negatively in comparison to the competition.
Digitized and automated business processes can be found in many manufacturing industries. Ever-increasing amounts of data have to be retrieved in the shortest possible time. Digital file structures for industry provide a full overview of all project data and documents. A digital machine file with its continuous structure contains all information that can be retrieved at any time. Even complex machine designs and plant plans can be easily exported and retrieved in project files using digital specialist solutions. Sharing and processing with external service providers is also ensured. Many industrial companies already rely on this solution.
Of course, production management in the digital age benefits not only from the use of digital files, but also from the integration of a document management system. In particular, the company Weber GmbH& Co. KG from Dillenburg has been relying for years on an intelligent connection of all departments in the industry. From managing production and quality-related documents to archiving, checking, releasing, sending and linking outgoing documents from SAP, everything is possible.
Targeted digitization of processes should always be tailored to the individual company. Once the strategy has been established in the company, the processes can be expanded with additional tools.