What is Industrial Automation: How IIOT & Automation are related(Part 2)

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In the last post, we explained the basics of Industrial Automation and why industries are shifting towards this new concept.

This week, we will be diving on the advantages of Automation and the hierarchies of an automation system, to provide fundamental knowledge regarding this concept that is taking over at a fast pace.

Why are industries turning towards Automation? (Advantages of Automation System)

Because of the evident benefits that businesses have seen when they migrated towards automation, there is no reason not to adopt these technologies.

Here is the list of advantages in an Automation System.

Increase in productivity

Automation in the factory, manufacturing or process plant improves production rate through better control of production. Automation helps accelerate mass production by reducing assembly time per product.

Therefore, for a given labor input it produces a large amount of output.

Automated Work Flows

Less labour intensive jobs by automating work flows

Low Operating Cost

With the integration of various processes via automated machinery, it minimizes the cycle time and effort which reduces human labour.

This in turn will lower the cost of employees and welfare required.

Improvement in Product Quality

Since automation reduces the human involvement, the possibilities of human errors are eliminated.

Standardization and product quality can be preserved with automation by controlling and monitoring the industrial processes at all stages from the inception of a product to the end.

Reduce Manual Routine Checks

Automation also reduces the need for manual checking of various process parameters.

By taking advantage of automation technologies, industrial processes automatically adjusts process variables to set desired values using closed loop control techniques.

Manual Inspection

“Roger, my jolly old friend, I think there’s something that we’re not doing right here”.

Increase safety levels

With automation, industries are able to substitute employees with automated machines, especially in hazardous working conditions.

Traditionally, industrial robots and robotic devices are implemented in such risky and hazardous places.

Industrial Robots

Robots can go where no man can

Hierarchy of an Industrial Automation System

Industrial automation systems can be very complex in nature, having large number of devices working in synchronization with automation technologies. The figure below describes the hierarchical arrangement of the automation system consisting of different hierarchical levels.

Field Level

The Field Level is the lowest level in the automation hierarchy which includes field devices such as sensors and actuators.

The primary task of these field devices is to transfer the data from processes and machines to the next hierarchy, which is the monitoring and analysis stage (Control Level).

Put it simply, the Field Level can be described as the eyes and the arms of a particular process.

Sensors convert the real time parameters like temperature, pressure, flow or level into electrical signals. This data is then transferred to the controller for the purpose of monitoring and to analyze real time parameters. Example of sensors includes thermocouple, proximity sensors, RTDs or flow meters to name a few.

On other hand, actuators convert the electrical signals (from the controllers) into mechanical means to control the processes. Flow control valves, solenoid valves, pneumatic actuators, relays, DC motors and servo motors are the examples of actuators.

Levels of Automation

Hierarchy of an Industrial Automation System

Control Level

This level consists of various automation devices like CNC machines and PLCs which acquires the process parameters from various sensors. The automatic controllers drive the actuators based on the processed sensor signals and program or control technique.

Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are most widely used robust industrial controllers which are capable of delivering automatic control functions based on input from sensors. It consists of various modules like CPU, analog I/O, digital I/O and communication modules. It allows the operator to program a control function or strategy to perform certain automatic operation on process.

Supervising and Production Control Level

In this level, automatic devices and monitoring system facilitates the controlling and intervening functions like Human Machine Interface (HMI), supervising various parameters, setting production targets, historical archiving, setting machine start and shutdown.

Mostly, either Distribution Control System (DCS) or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) HMIs are popularly used in this level.

Information or Enterprise Level

This is the top level of the industrial automation which manages the whole automation system. The tasks of this level include production planning, customer and market analysis, orders and sales, etc. So it deals more with commercial activities and less with technical aspects.

And also industrial communication networks are most prominent in industrial automation systems which transfer the information from one level to the other. So these are present in all the levels of automation system to provide continuous flow of information.

This communication network varies from one level to the other. Some of these networks include RS485, CAN, DeviceNet, Foundation Field bus, Profibus, etc.

From the above hierarchy we can conclude that there is continuous information flow from high level to low level and vice-versa. If we assume this graphical way, it is like a pyramid in which as we go up, the information gets aggregated and while going down, we get detailed information about the process.

*Stay tuned for the last part of this automation article where we will be exploring the types of Industrial Automation System and success stories of our clients who have adopted using our products.

Feel free to contact us at marketing@phoenixcontact.com.sg to find out more!



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