What Is Industrial Automation?
Industrial Automation refers to the field of study and the application of that knowledge to implement modern industrial control system technology to achieve a desired level of process control as specified by the needs of the specific application. There are many components of Industrial Automation that I will cover in future articles such as Instrumentation, Electrical, Electronics, Data Analysis, Process Tuning (PID), PLCs, DCSs, SCADA, Wireless Communications, Cyber Security (CIA vs. AIC), etc. I will come back to this article and hyperlink each of those terms as I get them posted. If you are completely new to this realm, the aforementioned term ‘process control’ may have little to no meaning to you. Process Control in this context is the control of any industrial (or other) process via the utilization of modern technology (I’ll also cover some not so new methods in a future article of process control methods that are gone but not forgotten such as pneumatic control). The phrase ‘to control a process’ can be applied in a few different ways depending upon the type of process that we are talking about. For instance, some industrial processes are batch processes where the same set of instructions are repeated over and over to produce the same results (automobiles and food processing are examples of batch processes). Other industrial processes are continuous control of an endless stream of process related material that must be maintained within a specific set of parameters (wastewater treatment, drinking water, and power generation are examples of continuous process control). Based on the two previous sentences, you can see that process control has the same baseline definition regardless of the type of process, but can be greatly expanded in several different areas to morph into something completely unique for each process that is to be controlled. A few great examples of continuous process control that you have probably used many times in your life are: your car’s cruise control system, your home’s HVAC controls, and your oven. Each of these three items is only able to function because process control techniques and technology have been engineered into each of the systems that ‘controls’ the speed of your car, the temperature of your home, and the temperature of your oven. There are other items that you may interact with in your daily life that utilize process control as well that you will, no doubt, look at differently after reading this article. Now that Process Control has been briefly covered, let’s get back to the original question: what is Industrial Automation?
Let’s start with the big picture, we’ve established that industrial processes need to be controlled in some form or another. Each individual process, regardless of its purpose, must be controlled, monitored, maintained, engineered, researched, tuned, upgraded, repaired, and calibrated by individuals who are trained in any or all of these areas. The field of Industrial Automation has several different disciplines that when combined have the ability to achieve amazing results that have a direct impact upon our civilization. We all enjoy the fruits of the labors of Industrial Automation. Just think about the types of items that are immediately surrounding you. You are probably sitting in a chair, are definitely using electricity, are looking at a computer screen that is attached to a tablet, PC, laptop, or mobile device. You are probably enjoying a controlled environment (AC or heat) and probably ate something today that was purchased at a local supermarket. You are wearing clothes and probably have jewelry on of some type. Your computer or other device is probably sitting on a desk or table of some sort and your are either sipping water or perhaps enjoying a cup of coffee. EVERY SINGLE THING I just mentioned is able to be mass produced and distributed thanks to Industrial Automation. There are very few things that are hand made out of materials that haven’t been processed and shipped in some manner (there are always exceptions!). At this moment, you should stop and take a moment to consider your surroundings are realize that most of the items that are part of your daily life came from a factory; that factory utilizes Industrial Automation to ensure that its products are consistently created with a high degree of accuracy. Without this technology, our modern world would look very different. We would not all be enjoying similar technologies and creature comforts. In fact, we would be living like our ancestors did in a very different environment that lacked access to mass produced items that we all currently consume.
The Industrial Automation Source
Starting with this article and the zillions that are to follow, my goal is to supply you with real-world knowledge in conjunction with real-world solutions to real problems that Industrial Automation professionals encounter on a daily basis. Each of these areas will be covered in great detail with a strong focus on ensuring that the information that is provided is directly applicable to your specific application of Industrial Automation. Each article will have a comment section where you can directly engage with us. If you have an automation project that requires more than just a comment section on a website, we offer private consultation services that allow us to provide you with specific, cost-effective solutions to ensure that your project is successful.