Even before the dawn of the age of mechatronics, automation has been a recurring preoccupation of humanity throughout the centuries. The ancient Greeks, for example, were well known for significantly improving the design of the water clock, which they called the clepsydra or the “water thief.” Ctesibius (285 BCE to 222BCE) —a barber, inventor, mathematician, and possibly the first head of the Mouseion at Alexandria—invented a float regulator that is today recognized as the earliest example of a feedback control system.
In the year 850 AD, the three Banu Musa brothers of Iraq also published an illustrated book about mechanical devices called The Book of Ingenious Devices, which was also called The Book of Tricks. These included automatic fountains, an automatic flute, trick devices, and several other automata or self-operating machines.
Today, in the modern world, automation has achieved a level of ubiquity that stands as a testament to how much we now rely on technologies that let us accomplish things with minimum human assistance and intervention. Most of the organizations belonging to the world’s major industries—from the manufacturing, agriculture, and aerospace sectors to the entertainment, telecommunications, and food industries—rely on automation in one way or another.
How exactly does automation and related fields like robotics help organizations improve their competitive advantage? This short guide will enumerate some of the ways businesses and public sector agencies can take advantage of automation to make their processes more efficient and to save on costs.
As organizational operations grow, productivity becomes a bigger concern for businesses. After all, bigger companies tend to become less agile and less productive, thanks to the combined effects of individual inefficiencies that can plague an organization in many areas of their operations. Thankfully, automation is the perfect way for organizations to increase production without compromising on quality and increasing costs. Manufacturing businesses, for example, can achieve significant economies of scale because they’ll be able to produce goods at a much lower cost. This is very important, especially for enterprises that require large capital investments to operate and to realize returns.
Increased Accuracy and Precision
In any type of production, human error is a factor that can never be avoided. Thankfully, it can be minimized significantly with automation, since programmable machines can perform accurate and precise processes every time and according to the same specifications. For example, laser processing machines with linear motion stages can perform precise motions down to micron levels, which means they can laser-cut workpieces with minimal error every time. This helps in minimizing resource wastage, in addition to ensuring the quality and reliability of the product components being produced.
On top of accuracy and precision, automation also affords organizations the benefit of reliable repeatability, which is also a critical element in maintaining quality in production. Unlike human workers, machines never get fatigued and are less prone to error. This reliability in terms of being able to maintain quality over recurrent processes is key to achieving high throughput and productivity.
Increased Production Speed
Automation can indeed help organizations adapt to increasing volumes of production, but aside from this, it also helps them speed up production. Many automated processes are so efficient that countless products in the modern world go through the production line, get assembled, and get completed while hardly being touched by any human agent.
Naturally, by reducing expenses related to labor, overhead, and production floor space, organizations can also expect huge savings in the long run. Even when the initial cost of investment in automation equipment is taken into consideration, businesses can still expect their savings to outweigh these expenses over the long term.
Ability to Meet Customer Demand
The contraction in production schedules due to automation can likewise help businesses stay competitive by being able to meet the demands of customers consistently. After all, customers are more likely to remain loyal to a brand if the company can consistently deliver the products or services that they need.
Indeed, automation is the engine that drives our modern civilization. Only time will tell what other benefits we can gain from the automated processes of the future, which will require less and less human agency to work.