Since the first Fords rolled off the first assembly line, automation has played a critical and expanding role in business. While first relegated to manufacturing primarily, automation has rapidly evolved over the years, becoming an integral part of many industries and businesses. It’s so prevalent today that many people don’t even realize it, like traffic lights or the heating control system in your home. With the multitude of automation systems available, it’s essential to understand the types of automation solutions available, how they’re connected and how they can benefit different business operations.
Understanding the Different Types of Automation
Fixed or Hard Automation: As the name says, this automation requires the configuration of a process to stay the same, which is why it’s predominantly used in manufacturing plants where the product doesn’t change frequently. Assembly machines and specific production rates often characterize this system. The tasks aren’t complex and involve basic functionalities, and the equipment in fixed automation systems, like assembly line setups, can operate with little human intervention.
Programmable Automation: This industrial automation is similar to hard automation but more flexible. It is primarily used in batch production, where factories create different but similar products on the same production line. When it is time to switch from one to another, the system allows reprogramming to handle the ‘new’ product. It’s flexible but can require downtime for reprogramming in between production runs.
Flexible or Soft Automation: Whereas programmable automation makes it easy to change from one batch to another, flexible automation is designed for product changeovers. They can be used to help the same machinery produce multiple products, not just variants of the same thing. It offers a seamless transition between products with almost zero downtime using tools like computer programs and integrated automation technologies.
Process Automation: Process automation incorporates many of the functions of other industrial automation and adapts them to execute various mission-critical but repetitive business processes. Software programs and applications leverage the appropriate data to execute a set of tasks typically done by a human. Process automation improves workflow efficiency, reduces errors and makes monitoring business processes easier.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA): A relatively newer form of automation, RPA allows businesses to automate repetitive tasks, streamline workflows and enhance efficiency using software robots or ‘bots’. RPA can mimic human actions as rules-based tasks in various business processes using algorithms, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
Applications of Automation Technologies
As mentioned earlier, automation isn’t just confined to manufacturing processes anymore. From material handling to real-time monitoring, automation tools have many applications that benefit a wide range of businesses. In manufacturing, automation, including the use of industrial robots, can help achieve higher production rates, reduce labor costs and improve production processes. Cybersecurity is far more effective and capable when combining automation technologies with artificial intelligence. And, of course, by enhancing business processes across your enterprise, you can increase productivity, profitability, efficiency and more. But the one thing that has changed the game is connecting all individual automation to work together seamlessly.
Full Stack Automation from Redwood
The rise of cloud computing and other modern technologies has made it easier and more cost-effective for companies to modernize their digital infrastructure. Many have seized on this opportunity to not only upgrade their hardware or software but to completely rethink their business processes, data architectures and organizational structures to take advantage of the new capabilities that modern technologies offer. Full stack automation allows your company to seamlessly connect all of your systems and data to unlimited servers, applications and environments. From modern SaaS solutions to existing legacy systems, on-premise to private cloud, our full stack automation capabilities will ensure your critical business processes will execute flawlessly, no matter how complex your current IT landscape is.
If you’re looking for more information about this subject, check out our article on what is workload automation, or even better, sign up for a quick demo of Redwood’s solutions here.
As automation continues to evolve, you can count on Redwood to be at the forefront, just like we’ve been for the last 30 years.