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The Role Of Industrial Automation

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4th November 2022
4 Minute Read

Industrial automation encompasses the use of control systems that improve quality, consistency, and rate of production, while at the same time reducing expenses. The control systems range from robotics to carry out mechanical tasks to information technology applications that can be applied to many administrative tasks in a company. Although the initial price of implementing industrial automation is high, the long-term benefits more than outweigh these costs.

 

What is an automation engineer?

 

An automation engineer is an IT role, where an engineer is skilled in incorporating automation processes into the workflow of an organization, thereby automating designated parts of the systems to do work on their own. The overall aim is to improve both the speed and efficiency of workflow.

Automation engineers assess existing technology in workflows and plan to either adapt the existing technology so it’s more effective with less human interaction, or they redesign it from scratch to create a new more efficient automated system.

By working with the process stakeholders, automation engineers bring to light any problems with the automation, so they can be addressed and removed so they no longer affect the efficiency of the workflow.

 

What type of tasks does an automation engineer do?

 

The overall role of an automation engineer is to improve productivity and at the same time cut back costs by implementing automation technologies in an organization. Their remit goes further and also includes:

  • Researching and discovering new opportunities for automation in software processes
  • Installing, testing, and debugging automation software to ensure it’s working effectively
  • Training the associated stakeholders to use the automation software and create a culture of further automation as a benefit, not a threat
  • Further research and collaboration with associated departments to discover new opportunities for automation.

The range of automation engineer projects requires different skill sets however there is a crossover in these skills which generally include:

 

Programming and coding

Automation engineers are skilled in computer programming and software development.

 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

Automation engineers can design software solutions that allow processes to function autonomously. They have an increasing understanding of AI and ML.

 

Creative, critical thinking and problem-solving

Automation engineers need well-developed analytical skills. They must be able to assess situations critically and create solutions that efficiently solve any problem. Engineers must also be diligent with the data they discover so that it is stored and retrievable in a usable form.

 

What Industries does automation play a key part in?

It was during the 1970s that automation in the form of robotics was adopted by more and more manufacturing companies. However, the field of automation in industry now encompasses many more forms.

As technology improves most business processes are seen as viable for automation from the smallest SME to larger corporations. The following industries are already being transformed by automation:

 

 

Manufacturing

With the application of automation, entire manufacturing units can be operated by a handful of staff. Automation advantages in manufacturing include the mechanical precision of tasks that humans are unable to match, leading to a consistency of quality. Similarly, operations run with greater safety and with reductions in operating expenses.

 

 

Retail and Trade

The growth of retail and trade automation is one of the fastest-growing sectors and it is projected that nearly 50% of jobs in the US are likely to become automated. The business model Amazon uses illustrates the case, where robots automatically seek products on the warehouse shelves and collect them into orders for dispatch.

 

 

Transportation

The growth of robotics in the manufacture of vehicles has now been established for more than 30 years and we are now seeing the emergence of autonomous HGVs on the roads as well. Without the limits of driver hours, automated HGVs can drive around the clock making the best use of resources and cutting expenses.

 

 

Agriculture

Although not an obvious candidate, the continued growth of the world population means that agriculture needs to be more and more efficient. Automation is well-placed to meet many of the requirements such as autonomous tractors to control weeds in the fields and harvest crops, and automated irrigation and ventilation systems in greenhouses to optimize crop yields.

 In all the above examples further automation is evident in their administration. For example, email marketing, customer service, sales, and human resources are all departments that can be automated to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

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