Application of automation in production Management10th April 2021
Automation of production is the basis of the development of modern industry and a general trend in technical progress. Its goal is to improve the efficiency of labor and the quality of manufactured products and to create conditions for the optimum utilization of all production resources. Partial, integrated, and total automation of production are distinguished.
Partial automation of production is defined more precisely as automation of specific production operations and is achieved in those cases where process control is practically inaccessible to human effort because of the complexity or rapidity of the process and where simple automatic devices can effectively replace human labor. As a rule, working production equipment is partially automated. As automation equipment is perfected and its range of application is expanded, partial automation is found to be most effective where the manufacturing equipment is designed to be automated from the outset. Partial automation includes automation of control operations.
In integrated automation of production, the production section, the production shop, the plant, or the electric power station functions as a unified interrelated automated complex. Integrated automation of production encompasses all of the basic functions of the enterprise, farm, or service. It is feasible only in the case of highly developed production based on modern technology and sophisticated methods of control using highly reliable production equipment acting according to a prespecified or self-adaptive program. The human function is limited to overall monitoring and control of the entire complex.
Total automation of production is the highest stage of automation. It provides for the transfer of all functions involving control and monitoring of complex automated production to automatic control systems. Total automation of production is instituted when the line of production to be automated is practicable and stable, production conditions remain practically unchanged, and possible deviations can be taken into account beforehand; total automation is also used in inaccessible situations or where conditions are hazardous to human health or life.
Factors determining the degree of automation are primarily cost and feasibility under specific production conditions. Automation of production does not imply a complete displacement of human workers by automatons, but the direction of human labor activities and the nature of the human-machine interaction do undergo changes. Human labor acquires new qualitative nuances, becoming more complex and meaningful. The emphasis in human labor activities is transferred to technical servicing of automatic machinery and analytic and administrative activities.
The work done by a single worker becomes just as important as the work done by an entire subdivision (production section, production shop, laboratory). With the change in the nature of labor, the content of workers’ skills changes simultaneously. Many old professions based on heavy physical labor are eliminated. The proportion of scientific and technical workers in production increases rapidly, since they are needed not only to keep the complicated equipment functioning normally but also to devise and design new and more sophisticated equipment.
Automation of production is one of the basic factors in the modern scientific and technical revolution which is opening up unprecedented opportunities for mankind to transform nature, to create enormous material wealth, and to multiply the creative capabilities of humanity. However, capitalism, as was pointed out in the basic document of the International Conference of Communist and Labor Parties (June 1969, Moscow), utilizes these opportunities to increase profits and to intensify the exploitation of the working people. Automation of production, while perfected in form under the conditions prevailing in capitalist society, remains in essence a means of exploitation and is directed primarily toward maximum utilization of equipment and objects of labor in the interests of monopolistic capital and safeguarding its domination.
Rapid nervous exhaustion of workers, a considerable lag in the rise of wages behind the rise in labor productivity, and intensification of labor lead to the reproduction of social antagonisms and to the engendering of new contradictions. First and foremost, there is the contradiction between the unusual opportunities opened up by the scientific and technical revolution and the obstacles that capitalism places in the path of their use in the interests of society as a whole by diverting the bulk of the discoveries of science and enormous material resources to military purposes and squandering national wealth. The increasing alienation of the worker, his subordinate position with respect to the automated machine, oppression on the part of the entire capitalist administrative system all of this stimulates increased protest on the part of workers in capitalist countries against automation of production.
Automation of production under socialist conditions is one of the basic methods of developing the national economy. Thanks to the socialist nature of property, planned organization of production, and the active participation of manual workers and intellectual workers in the management and control of the economy, optimum utilization of opportunities to speed up economic development and satisfy most fully the needs of all the members of society becomes a realistic prospect. These opportunities came to light as a result of the scientific and technical revolution. In the USSR automation of production not only brings about maximum savings, while creating a wealth of material and cultural value for society, but also acts gradually to wipe out, by means of full employment, the differences between physical and intellectual labor.
Automated production systems can be classified into three basic types:
- Fixed automation,
- Programmable automation, and
- Flexible automation.
It is a system in which the sequence of processing (or assembly) operations is fixed by the equipment configuration. The operations in the sequence are usually simple. It is the integration and coordination of many such operations into one piece of equipment that makes the system complex. The typical features of fixed automation are:
- High initial investment for custom–Engineered equipment;
- High production rates; and
- Relatively inflexible in accommodating product changes.
The economic justification for fixed automation is found in products with very high demand rates and volumes. The high initial cost of the equipment can be spread over a very large number of units, thus making the unit cost attractive compared to alternative methods of production. Examples of fixed automation include mechanized assembly and machining transfer lines.
In this the production equipment is designed with the capability to change the sequence of operations to accommodate different product configurations. The operation sequence is controlled by a program, which is a set of instructions coded so that the system can read and interpret them. New programs can be prepared and entered into the equipment to produce new products. Some of the features that characterize programmable automation are:
- High investment in general-purpose equipment;
- Low production rates relative to fixed automation;
- Flexibility to deal with changes in product configuration; and
- Most suitable for batch production.
Automated production systems that are programmable are used in low and medium volume production. The parts or products are typically made in batches. To produce each new batch of a different product, the system must be reprogrammed with the set of machine instructions that correspond to the new product. The physical setup of the machine must also be changed over: Tools must be loaded, fixtures must be attached to the machine table also be changed machine settings must be entered. This changeover procedure takes time. Consequently, the typical cycle for given product includes a period during which the setup and reprogramming takes place, followed by a period in which the batch is produced. Examples of programmed automation include numerically controlled machine tools and industrial robots.
It is an extension of programmable automation. A flexible automated system is one that is capable of producing a variety of products (or parts) with virtually no time lost for changeovers from one product to the next. There is no production time lost while reprogramming the system and altering the physical setup (tooling, fixtures, and machine setting). Consequently, the system can produce various combinations and schedules of products instead of requiring that they be made in separate batches. The features of flexible automation can be summarized as follows:
- High investment for a custom-engineered system.
- Continuous production of variable mixtures of products.
- Medium production rates.
- Flexibility to deal with product design variations.
The essential features that distinguish flexible automation from programmable automation are:
- the capacity to change part programs with no lost production time; and
- the capability to changeover the physical setup, again with no lost production time.
These features allow the automated production system to continue production without the downtime between batches that is characteristic of programmable automation. Changing the part programs is generally accomplished by preparing the programs off-line on a computer system and electronically transmitting the programs to the automated production system. Therefore, the time required to do the programming for the next job does not interrupt production on the current job. Advances in computer systems technology are largely responsible for this programming capability in flexible automation. Changing the physical setup between parts is accomplished by making the changeover off-line and then moving it into place simultaneously as the next part comes into position for processing. The use of pallet fixtures that hold the parts and transfer into position at the workplace is one way of implementing this approach. For these approaches to be successful; the variety of parts that can be made on a flexible automated production system is usually more limited than a system controlled by programmable automation.
Variety (Number of Different Parts) ↑
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