Mechanization and Automation in Manufacturing

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Automation and Mechanization in Manufacturing

Mechanization is a process of reducing the human efforts in manufacturing. In modern-day manufacturing, the mechanization is of great importance as it can provide greater production in lowest possible time and at a lower cost. So if some manufacturing process is done by machinery and not by hands then it can be called mechanization. These days all the manufacturing is done to achieve some milestone. So to achieve this milestone at a lower human effort and time some mechanization is necessary. And mechanization will lead to the automation. So to use the machine to its highest capability by adopting mechanical and electrical means or methods will automate the process eventually. Automation and mechanization can be performed in many areas of the manufacturing process.

The trend of automation can be applied in the material handling or material transporting methods. Loading and unloading is an important and time-consuming process on the production floor. If the process is automated then this will reduce a great deal of hustle. The machining operations done on the materials can be automated.

Machines when operated it can do the work but no feedback is provided. But an extension of the mechanization is the automation which provides useful feedback by means of sensors. It works in a closed loop in which sensors are active and provides feedback. Through these feedbacks, different machining operations are performed automatically. If all the operations are done through the automated process then the machine is known as a fully automated machine. While if some of the operations are automated and some are manual then the machine is known as the semi-automated machine. The term automation was defined by the Ford Motor Company after the World War II. It was done to perform the automatic handling of the materials. Mainly the word automation was derived from the Greek word ‘Automatos’. ‘Automatos’ means self-acting. So automation is a process of manufacturing in which no or very less human efforts are needed.

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Why Automation is Significant in Manufacturing

In the modern era of industrial revolution, automation can have multiple meanings. From a long time, automatic machines are being used in manufacturing processes. Automation does not cover the automatic machines. Automation is a technology in which mechanical, electrical and computer-based systems are incorporated to operate the process and to control the production. Every machine has some kind of automation involved in it. But the degree of automation may vary according to the limitations of the machines as well as the economic considerations. In an automated system, all the processes or a selected number of processes are governed by the self-operated devices which are known as controllers. So the essential elements of the automation are-

  • Mechanization
  • Sensors
  • Feedback system
  • Controllers

Automation in Lean Manufacturing

Why is automation must in modern production facilities? Let’s find the answer

  • Automation improves the rate of productivity to a great level. Only one program is needed to be set and the works will go on without any interruption.
  • Less manpower is needed. So the cost of labour is reduced. The production floor will not suffer due to the shortage of manpower.
  • The consistency of the production will be great. Automated machines can replicate the same process numerous times. So the production quality is highly improved.
  • In the process, inventory is reduced to a great deal.
  • Manufacturing time is shortened. This will certainly happen. Automated machines do not need to take rest like humans. The machines can be shut down once in a while due to the maintenance work. But that doesn’t affect the production that much.
  • Dependence on the skilled operator reduces to a great extent when automation is done. An automated process can be continued with people with very fewer Even people with skills can perform the job after some training.
  • Less human efforts required so less involvement of the humans in the automated machining technologies. So the risk of human life to be in danger is reduced greatly.

Three broad categories are there for the automation, viz.

  1. Fixed or Hard Automation
  2. Programmable automation technology
  3. Flexible automation or Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS)

Let’s discuss all the three processes

Fixed Automation Technology

Fixed automation, also known as hard automation, is generally used in the production of the standardized products. The standardized products may include gears, nuts, bolts, bearings, standard tubes, washers etc. Fixed or hard automation is used for the products which are needed to be manufactured in a large quantity. But there may be some marginal difference in the design of the components. For this automation technology to be implemented, highly specialized tools, jigs, fixtures and equipment are needed. These are essential for the highest production rate. This decreases the cost to a great extent.

Programmable Automation

This technique is very much needed for the manufacturing units producing versatile products. The companies in which frequent design changes are very normal are generally using the programmable automation system. In the programmable automation, the design of the product is changed through the programs. Even if you want to switch the manufacturing of one product to another, that is also possible. Low quantity production unit can use the programmable automation systems. Small batch production can be easily done with programmable automation techniques. Most of the time cell phone manufacturers are using programmable automation.

Flexible Automation

Another type of automation technology is the flexible automation. It lies between the programmable and fixed automation systems. Flexible automation involves the Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM). It is also known as the Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS). So one unit can be used to produce same product or different products. Robots can be a great example of Flexible Automation. Robots are an integral part of FMS. A large number of products can be manufactured with the help of robots and Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) system. It greatly reduces the human labour.

So in a modern-day manufacturing scenario is changed and the hardware and software concepts are also changed. So the use of mechatronics and automation in the production floor is the future.

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