Industrial automation is the use of technologies to carry out tasks that, a priori, were considered repetitive, automatically and with minimal human intervention.
Industrial automation is the phenomenon by which machines, computers and technology are used for industrial purposes. Through automation, processes that, a priori, were manual processes, become automated processes, which gives industrial processes great autonomy. For some thinkers, automation has been, not only the origin of the Third Industrial Revolution, but also a fundamental component for the development of what they call the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where automation is endowed with artificial intelligence and total interconnection for complete autonomy. of industrial processes.
Industrial automation is part of the Third Industrial Revolution, by mechanizing many processes and giving rise to a new industry that many authors call "Industry 4.0".
History of industrial automation
Automation, although not in the usual sense, has existed throughout history. Already in Greek or Roman times, citizens tried to implement automation in society, with mechanical objects that tried to imitate certain movements of animated beings. The Egyptians also had experiences with the principles of automation, because, like the Greeks, they used mechanical processes for the animation of the statues that tried to represent the figure of their gods.
However, the time when automation really boomed was in 1775, when the steam engine appeared. James Watt, creator of the steam engine, was able to automate several of the processes that led to the operation of this tool. Specifically, the double-effect machine, which appeared in 1784, had in its structure two automated processes, since the steam distributor, as well as the ball regulator, were completely automated.
From the creation of the steam engine, entering the eighteenth century. The Second Industrial Revolution, as well as the entire process that the economy went through with its industrialization, led to the birth of industrial automation. The division of labor, through the subsequent mechanization of industry, led to automation. By simplifying tasks through the division of labor and mechanization of manufacturing, the industry began to develop machinery that tried to reproduce the specific tasks of workers. Tasks that, a priori, were simpler and easier to recreate when divided.
From the creation of transfer machines to chain production systems, originated in the 1920s in the automotive industry, they caused that final, completely disruptive change, which not only generated a great increase in productivity in the industry, but it also changed the work methodology forever, especially in the industry.
Advantages and disadvantages of automation
Automation, like everything, has its advantages and disadvantages. With the emergence of automated machines, the industry experienced a revolution that sparked a new methodology.
Among the advantages that we can highlight of automation are:
- Increased productivity.
- Cost savings
- Less physical effort.
- Better quality of life.
- Improved health of workers.
- Improvements in working conditions.
- Greater competitive advantage.
- In some cases, reduction of occupational risks.
On the other hand, automation also has its downsides. Among them, the following should be highlighted:
- Destruction of employment.
- Possible decrease in tax collection in income tax.
- Technological dependence.
- Technological obsolescence.
- Increase in investment costs.
- Increase in maintenance costs.
- Dependence on more qualified personnel.
Automation in the 21st century
It is very difficult to find an industry that has not implemented automation in its manufacturing processes. In addition, over the years, it is gaining more and more presence in factories. Various authors, as well as organizations, are betting that the future labor market will drift towards a completely automated industry. An industry in which manufacturing jobs will become more skilled jobs, leaving more repetitive and lower value-added tasks for robots or automated machines.
On the other hand, from the critical point of view, many economists question automation from various points of view. In terms of employment, various authors consider automation as a threat to less qualified employment. A vision preceded by the conception that the person ends up being replaced by robots and machines.
On the tax side, many authors question the inability to apply an optimal tax for machines. A tax that is levied on those companies that stop hiring personnel to implement automated processes in their companies. The loss of income caused by the possible destruction of jobs could cause a lower fiscal income in the country, since the machines do not have wages, so the taxes subject to income would be lost.