What is industrial automation?

Automation is the technology that uses many control systems to control the equipment in a factory or in other places. There are various control systems used to do the automation they are PLC, numerical control, and industrial control system. These control systems are combined with certain computer-aided technologies so that industrial process control can be done very easily. So basically automation can be considered as the technology which has mechanical electronics and computer-based system to do its operation. Automation is done by various means such as mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electronic devices, and computers. Automation has made an industrial revolution, with the help of automation the productivity and quality can be increased. The industrial automation systems are designed in a way that they can make or process raw materials into finished products and this is done by using machines, equipment, and tools. It also requires electric, hydraulic, heat, air, and kinetic energy to do its operations.

How information technology is utilized in industrial automation?

We can see extensive use of information technology in industrial automation. Industrial IT can be seen in control and signal processing, communication and networking, simulation, design, analysis, optimization, real-time computing, and database. So information technology plays a great role in industrial automation without using it, automation will be very difficult. The communication of the system is handled by the IT section.  

What are the different types of control which are used to do industrial automation?

Discrete control

It is a simple form of ON-OFF control, the household thermostat can be taken as an example for this so this type of control can be utilized for industrial purposes. Sequence control is a type of control in which a programmed sequence of discreet operations is done. This control will be according to system logic and also the system state.

Continuous control

The feedback control can be considered as a continuous control, in this type of control sensors are used so that measurements can be done. So if the measurement is not according to requirements then certain changes are done to get proper output. So because of this, the measured variable will be in the set range.

Open and closed loop control

The control loop can be defined as a system that would do the measurement and control of a single variable by using certain elements. A closed-loop control would check the signal and the signal will be sent back and compared to the setpoint. If correction is required then the controller would act and it would send a return signal to make the correction and this is the closed-loop control. The open-loop control doesn’t do the feedback operation.

Sequence control or logical sequence

This type of control is used to fix a sequence or to do a logical one that would perform different actions according to various system states. The states can be referred to as different conditions that could occur in a sequence scenario of the system.

Computer control

The computers can do both the sequence and feedback control a single computer can be used to do both in industrial applications. PLC’s are used in industrial automation which can replace many components such as timers and sequencers. There are certain general-purpose process control computers that replace stand-alone controllers. So many controllers can be replaced by a single computer. The process control computers are capable to process data from a network of PLCs, instruments, and controllers so that they can control many operations. These computers can do complex control algorithms with the help of multiple inputs and also because of mathematical manipulation. Data can be analyzed by this computer and it would also display a process image.

What are the types of automation system?

Automation systems can be divided according to its level of flexibility and also integration.

Fixed automation

This type of automation is suitable for a large mass of production, with proper equipment that has a fixed set of operations and it should be designed to do this process. This type of automation can be used for the continuous flow and also for the discreet mass production system.


  • It can be used for high production quantities
  • High production rates
  • The initial investment would be high
  • It is not used to accommodate different product variety

Programmable automation

This type of automation can be used to do the operation which needs a changeable sequence. This type of automation can be used to produce products in batches. So in order to create a new batch the equipment which is used for the production should be reprogrammed. The reprogramming of the equipment for the new batch would take a certain time, and because of this time will be lost. Due to this production rates, in programmable automation is really low.


  • High investment
  • The production rate would be low
  • It has no problem with the variation and changes in product configurations

Flexible automation

This type of automation is invariably computer-controlled, the operator would give commands to the computer. These commands are to identify the products and their location in sequence. In the flexible type of automation, the variety of products is really low and because of this, the equipment changeover can be done quickly and automatically. In the flexible type of automation, the reprogramming can be done offline which means that the programming can be done by the computer without using the equipment.


  • The investment would be high for a custom engineered system
  • Different mixes of products can be produced
  • The production rate will be minimum

Integrated automation

This is the total automation of the industrial plant, all the processing function is under the computer control and it is all under the coordination through the digital information processing. So this can be considered as a network of the total automation of a process plant.

This type of automation would do all the product functioning under computer control and under coordination through digital information processing.

What are the different types of sensors used for industrial automation?

Temperature sensors

The temperature sensor would collect the details from a resource and it would be changed into an electrical signal which can be determined by other devices. It can detect if there is any variation in temperature and are capable to measure the temperature of a medium. Humidity and digital temperature sensors are used for industrial automation.

Pressure sensor

The pressure sensor would measure the pressure and then the value would be converted to an electric signal. Vacuum sensors are used to determine if the vacuum pressure is below the atmospheric pressure and it will be very difficult to detect the pressure by using mechanical methods. These sensors would have a heated wire and their electrical resistance has a relation to the temperature. So if the vacuum pressure increases the temperature of the wire would increase too.

MEMS sensors (Micro electro mechanical system)

These sensors can do the conversion of mechanical signals to electrical signals. Acceleration and motion sensors are the major types of MEMS sensors used for industrial automation.  

Torque sensors

The torque sensor mostly deals with mounting and other operations in an industrial process. It can raise the overload capacity in a process. Rotating torque and torque transducers are the most used torque sensors in industrial automation. Torque sensors are used to detect the rotation speed, and they can also detect the oscillating torque.

What are the advantages of industrial automation?

  • Human operators can be replaced to do hideous tasks
  • Humans can be replaced from tasks that are dangerous
  • Good quality and quantity can be achieved
  • It can do tasks that are beyond human ability like lifting heavy loads, handling too hot or cold substances, and a lot more
  • Good economic growth
  • Fewer errors   
  • High productivity and lower operating cost
  • High flexibility and safety
  • Saves energy
  • Troubleshooting is easy
  • Reduced space
  • High accuracy
  • Low operation time

What are the disadvantages of automation?

  • High initial cost
  • The development cost can’t be predicted, the development cost which is required to develop a process cannot be predicted.
  • If there is an error in a process then a lot of damages could happen

What are the applications of automation?

  • It is used in various machinery
  • Automation is used in process industries such as chemicals, Cement, plastics, food, refined oil, and a lot more
  • Power generation
  • It also used to do the home automation
  • Pharmaceuticals

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