Automation or automatic control, is the use of various control systems for operating equipment such as machinery, processes in factories, boilers and heat treating ovens, switching on telephone networks, steering and stabilization of ships, aircraft and other applications and vehicles with minimal or reduced human intervention. Some processes have been completely automated.
The term automation, inspired by the earlier word automatic (coming from automaton), was not widely used before 1947, when Ford established an automation department. It was during this time that industry was rapidly adopting feedback controllers, which were introduced in the 1930s.
Industrial automation is the use of control systems, such as computers or robots, and information technologies for handling different processes and machineries in an industry to replace a human being. It is the second step beyond mechanization in the scope of industrialization.
Earlier the purpose of automation was to increase productivity (since automated systems can work 24 hours a day), and to reduce the cost associated with human operators (i.e. wages & benefits). However, today, the focus of automation has shifted to increasing quality and flexibility in a manufacturing process. In the automobile industry, the installation of pistons into the engine used to be performed manually with an error rate of 1-1.5%. Presently, this task is performed using automated machinery with an error rate of 0.00001%.
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