Advantages and limitations of automation - Unit 1 (PLC, B.E. E & TC) 2015
Advantages of automation are:
1) Replacing human operators in tedious tasks. Replacing human operators in tasks that involve hard physical or monotonous work.
Replacing humans in tasks performed in dangerous environments such as those with temperature extremes or radioactive and toxic
atmospheres. (i.e. Fire, space, volcanoes, nuclear facilities, under the water, etc)
2) Making task that are beyond the human capabilities such as handle too heavy loads, too large objects, too hot or too cold substances or
the requirement to make things too fast or too slow.
3) Production is faster and labor costs less on a per product basis than the equivalent manual operations.
4) Automation systems can easily incorporate quality checks and verifications to reduce the number of out-of-tolerance parts being
produced while allowing for statistical process control that will allow for a more consistent and uniform product.
5) Improved quality or increased predictability of quality and Improved robustness (consistency), of processes or product. Reduces
operation time and work handling time significantly. Frees up workers to take on other roles. Performing tasks that are beyond
human capabilities of size, weight, speed, endurance, etc.
6) Economic improvement: Automation can serve as the catalyst for improvement in the economies of enterprises or society. For
example, the gross national income and standard of living in Germany and Japan improved drastically in the 20th century, due in large
part to acceptance of automation for the production of weapons, automobiles, textiles and other goods for export. Thus, Reduced
direct human labor costs and expenses.
7) The countries that have accepted automation enjoy a higher standard of living than those countries that have not accepted it. At the
same time, automating the tasks takes jobs from people that used to build things by hand. Regardless of the social binging, there is no
doubt that productivity increases with the proper application of automation techniques.
8) Provides higher level jobs in the development, deployment, maintenance and running of the automated processes.
9) Reduced inventories, greater operating flexibility, and reduced lead time, reduced scrap, improved reliability and design freedom.
The following methods are often employed to improve productivity, quality, or robustness:
a) Install automation in operations to reduce cycle time.
b) Install automation where a high degree of accuracy is required.
c) Replacing human operators in tasks that involve hard physical or monotonous work.
d) Replacing humans in tasks done in dangerous environments (i.e. fire, space, volcanoes, nuclear facilities, underwater, etc.)
Limitations of automation are:
1) Technology limits: Current technology is unable to automate all desired tasks. Some tasks cannot be easily automated, such as the
production or assembly of products with inconsistent component sizes or in tasks where manual dexterity is required. There are
some things that are best left to human assembly and manipulation.
2) Economic limits: Certain tasks would cost more to automate than to perform manually. Automation is typically best suited to
processes that are repeatable, consistent and high volume.
3) Unpredictable development costs: The research and development cost of automating a process is difficult to predict accurately
beforehand. Since this cost can have a large impact on profitability, it is possible to finish automating a process only to discover that
there is no economic advantage in doing so. With the advent and continued growth of different types of production lines, more
accurate estimates based on previous projects can be made.
4) Initial costs are relatively high: The automation of a new product or the construction of a new plant requires a huge initial
investment compared to the unit cost of the product. Even machinery for which the development cost has already been recovered is
expensive in terms of hardware and labor. The cost can be prohibitive for custom production lines where product handling and
tooling must be developed.
5) A skilled maintenance department is often required to service and maintain the automation system in proper working order. Failure
to maintain the automation system will ultimately result in lost production and/or bad parts being produced.
6) Security Threats/Vulnerability: An automated system may have a limited level of intelligence, and is therefore more susceptible to
committing errors outside of its immediate scope of knowledge (e.g., it is typically unable to apply the rules of simple logic to general
7) Displacement of Labor: In spite of assurances to the contrary, automation does not result in worker replacement, and often in
management replacement as well. Workers in unions oppose the move for automation. The LIC installed five computers
successfully. The Trade Unions installed one of the computers in the Mumbai office. The Trade Unions also saw to it that no LIC
employee was retrenched because of the automation .They are still unhappy due to the installment of the Computer in the
Mumbai office, due to which ,future employee opportunities have been closed in that office. Labor being displaced, the benefit
of suggestions from employees is lost .This is an irreparable loss to the management.
8) Tighter specification may be needed: In an un-automated factory, when there are slight deviations from the specifications of
the materials that have been received, workers are still able to use them after making minor adjustments. This can never be
done in an automated plant because machines are not as flexible as human beings .Inevitably; increasingly automation will
bring demands on suppliers to adhere more rigidly to specifications. This may raise the costs of purchased materials slightly. It
may also increase the probability of supply failure due to poor quality.
9) Costs of Supply Failure Increase: If the supplier fails to deliver the goods in time or stock of the material is exhausted, the
inevitable result is to shut down the plant. The cost of shut-down in an automated plant is far more than that of a non-
automated plant. In the non-automated case, workers can be sent home, and in the automated case the workers can be sent
home because they are very few. Substitute for the Workers is a tremendous investment as the equipment goes on
depreciating, whether it is being used or not.
10) Slack Season would be Disastrous: Automation results in increased production if increased production does not find a ready
market, the prices will fall and the result will be disastrous. The management should, therefore, be sensitive to the demands.
Automation based on a hopeful market expansion is a direct road to bankruptcy.
11) Dehumanization: Automation, carried to its logical end, dehumanizes the plant and generates a peculiar atmosphere in it.
True, it offers several advantages. It is also true that an automated plant frees the management from labor troubles. At the same
time, it should not be forgotten that the employment of thousands of persons in a single plant carries its own charm and gives a
sense of pride and satisfaction in achievement which hundreds of computers and robots cannot.
12) Problem of Developing Countries: Automation poses certain peculiar problems for developing countries. These countries are
characterized by a high rate of unemployment, scarcity of foreign exchange, shortage of highly skilled personnel, shortage of
capital, etc. All these are impediments in the introduction of new technology. Not that automation has any relevance in
developing countries .In fact; it has a definite role to play in these countries as well. It is expected to stimulate agricultural
industrial and other development, because mass production will create more demand for raw materials and components, and
in the process, will help generate employment in the long run. Goods and services will be produced at lower unit costs,
promoting greater consumption and improved levels of living .But the developing countries cannot, for some more time to
come, afford the luxury of automation as it is understood and introduced in highly developed countries Selective automation to
ensure accuracy, if not speed may be more relevant in the developing companies, where automation without tears is a cry
which should be needed and respected for sometime to come.