Automation is essential in keeping manufacturers competitive in the global market

One of the most important application areas for automation technology is manufacturing.There are three types of automation in production: fixed automation, programmable automation, and flexible automation. Fixed automation, also known as “hard automation,” refers to an automated production facility in which the sequence of processing operations is fixed by the equipment configuration. In effect, the programmed commands are contained in the machines in the form of cams, gears, wiring and other hardware that is not easily changed over from one product style to another. This form of automation is characterised by high initial investment and high production costs. It is therefore suitable for products that are made in large volumes. Examples of fixed automation include machining transfer lines found in the automotive industry, automatic assembly machines and certain chemical processes. Programmable automation is a form of automation for producing products in batches. The products are made in batch quantities ranging from several dozen to several thousand units at a time. For each new batch, the production equipment must be reprogrammed and changed over to accommodate the new product style. Flexible automation is an extension of programmable automation. The disadvantage with programmable automation is the time required to reprogram and change over the production equipment for each batch of new product. This is lost production time, which is expensive.

Test and Measurement

Equipment used to test electrical properties and signals

Major products include instruments such as frequency counters, logic analysers, multimeters, oscilloscopes, voltmeters and waveform synthesisers. Other products include instruments designed for a specific application, such as communications testing equipment and instruments to test semiconductors. These instruments are used to test electrical equipment and to measure electrical properties.

Process Control

Manufacturing process control and quality assurance are elements of a quality management system

What is the set of policies, procedures, and processes used to ensure the quality of a product or a service? It is widely acknowledged that quality management systems improve the quality of the products and services produced, thereby improving market share, sales growth, sales margins and competitive advantage, and helping to avoid litigation. The International Organisation for Standardisation has outlined quality principles and the procedures for implementing a quality management system in ISO 9000:2000, ISO 9001:2000 and other documents. These documents have become the gold standards of best practices for ensuring quality and, in many fields, serve as the basis for regulation.