Many experts believe we are headed for a future of intense mobility. While our cellphones have long been toted around in our pockets, industry experts are looking into the future and seeing a need for manufacturing processes to implement highly mobile automated systems, too. “Movable” and compact’ are the words Jim Pinto, industry analyst, uses to describe the future of industrial automation in an article on Automation.com. If this is the way we’re headed, then the time has arrived to think about taking that big step up from hydraulic or pneumatic to electric automation.
Electric automation improves one machine’s ability to do multiple tasks, further compacts the space requirements due to fewer parts and significantly improves energy efficiency and green automation practices.
Automated Systems: One for Many
Each time a change is made to a product it can mean a major change to the way factory automation systems operate. It’s simply much too expensive to constantly update a system or build an entirely new one to accommodate these changes. Using existing systems that can easily adapt to new parts to create a new process is innovative, and that’s what Pinto says we’re headed for more of.
Electric actuation and automation are the logical companions of these movable, compact systems. In comparison to hydraulic or pneumatic systems, electric automation is more adaptable because it’s a simpler process to change from one component to another or modify the action of that component. Manufacturers will also have an easier time programming an electric automation system than a hydraulic or pneumatic one.
Electric on the Move
“The large, centralized production plant is a thing of the past,” says Pinto. The idea that a factory can be moved to where the resources and customer base resides is a simple idea, but one that has until now never been seriously considered. One can imagine the cost-cutting potential that comes when a manufacturer isn’t spending valuable expenses on sending trucks, boats or planes back and forth from resource to plant to customer.
Getting that kind of mobility this means getting compact. While electric automation is set up for success due to the small number of parts these systems can use, the amount of components that are involved with both pneumatic and hydraulic systems could put them at a disadvantage. Depending on the manufacturing needs, an electric actuation system can be a small as a single actuator and the power supply.
Factory Automation Systems Are Going Green
The future of automation is green, and that’s nothing new. Manufacturers all across the globe have been looking for new, innovative ways to implement greener technologies. One of the biggest hurdles to this process is often the financial strain of purchasing these systems. While a production manager may roll their eyes at the initial costs of an electric system, the long-term savings tell an entirely different story. Because of the reliability and the efficiency of electric automation, costs can be recouped in as a little as 12 months, depending on the application. These benefits are translated mainly from low maintenance and lower power consumption.
A gargantuan production factory inherently has a hard time adapting, but those who adapt are better prepared to thrive in the new market. The idea of a manufacturing plant using compact, versatile automation systems is well on its way, and riding that production line before anyone else may just get you out of the gates first.
Pinto, B. (2013) The Future of Industrial Automation. http://www.automation.com/library/articles-white-papers/articles-by-jim-pinto/the-future-of-industrial-automation