Automation is everywhere, but good automation is invisible

19.2.2020 Protacon Blog

Industrial automation and various development projects aim to, for example, increase production efficiency.

Industrial companies utilize automation as a central part of their production processes – regardless of the branch of industry. In fact, automation has become an essential element to achieve compliance with production requirements. 

What is the role of automation in improving the competitive strength of industrial companies and how to identify a well-functioning automation solution?

Improving production efficiency also requires changes in the automation system

Although Finland is traditionally considered a pioneer in automation technology, a modern automation system also requires adaptability and new types of services to meet the requirements set for production. For example, such requirements include customer oriented production and the best possible flexibility. In addition, operational reliability and maintainability of the automation system as well as easily available support services play a critical role in the management of the production process.

Typically, industrial automation and various development projects aim to:

  • Increase production efficiency
  • Improve quality control
  • Reduce production costs
  • Increase the production speed

A well-functioning automation solution can be identified by its being invisible

In automation design it’s essential to consider the changing needs and new requirements of production.

In the industry, automation is everywhere, but a truly workable automation solution can be identified by its being invisible. The same logic that applies to, say, cleaning services also applies to automation systems – you only pay attention to their existence when they stop working. In the worst case, an automation failure can cause quality defects or even a total production stop. 

Often, these problems are attributable to failure to initially consider the changing needs or new requirements of production in the automation design. A sudden increase in the order backlog or a production launch of a completely new product typically also show as an increased need of automation. Thus, automation and particularly its reliability are an essential and critical element of competitive advantage of industrial companies.

An intelligent automation solution extensively exploits data collected from production

Industrial automation uses machine monitoring and various sensors to detect critical events. Sensors collect a huge amount of data from production. The task of the automation designer is to extract the data that is the most essential for production into a system in which it is available for use.

Besides exploiting data more extensively, an intelligent automation solution does not store data pointlessly. For example, the automation system can make real-time decisions based on the data and only stores it in exceptional cases or errors. Similarly, it can make more advanced conclusions based on the same data.

Take power monitoring of an electric motor as an example. A simple automation solution, for example, could send a message if the absorbed power of the electric motor reaches a preset alarm limit. The system then concludes that the motor is jammed. Correspondingly, an intelligent automation system may continuously monitor a value and simultaneously calculate a rolling average. Based on this information, it can conclude, for example, that a higher average predicts bearing wear or other wear that increases the amount of friction.

Simo Salonen

Kirjoittaja Simo Salonen

I work as Department Manager responsible for automation and electrification designers in Western Finland. Leading people and working for a common objective is the best thing in my work. I spend my leisure time with my family, for example, going for a walk with children in the nearby forests and parks.