Is the use of control systems (such as numerical control, programmable logic control, and other industrial control systems), in concert with other applications of information technology (such as computer-aided technologies [CAD, CAM, CAx]), to control industrial machinery and processes, reducing the need for human intervention. In the scope of industrialization, automation is astep beyond mechanization. Whereas mechanization provided human operators with machinery to assist them with the muscular requirements of work, automation greatly reduces the need for human sensory and mental requirements as well. Processes and systems can also be automated.
Automation plays an increasingly important role in the global economy and in daily experience. Engineers strive to combineautomated devices with mathematical and organizational tools to create complex systems for a rapidly expanding range of applications and human activities.
Many roles for humans in industrial processes presently lie beyond the scope of automation. Human-level pattern recognition, language recognition, and language production ability are well beyond the capabilities of modern mechanical and computersystems. Tasks requiring subjective assessment or synthesis of complex sensory data, such as scents and sounds, as well as high-level tasks such as strategic planning, currently require human expertise. In many cases, the use of humans is more cost-effective than mechanical approaches even where automation of industrial tasks is possible.
Specialised hardened computers, referred to as programmablelogic controllers (PLCs), are frequently used to synchronize the flow of inputs from (physical) sensors and events with the flow of outputs to actuators and events. This leads to precisely controlled actions that permit a tight control of almost any industrial process.
Human-machine interfaces (HMI) or computer human interfaces (CHI), formerly known as man-machine interfaces, are usuallyemployed to communicate with PLCs and other computers, such as entering and monitoring temperatures or pressures for further automated control or emergency response. Service personnel who monitor and control these interfaces are often referred to as stationary engineers.
Automation has had a notable impact in a wide range of highly visible industries beyond manufacturing. Once-ubiquitous telephoneoperators have been replaced largely by automated telephone switchboards and answering machines. Medical processes such as primary screening in electrocardiography or radiography and laboratory analysis of human genes, sera, cells, and tissues are carried out at much greater speed and accuracy by automated systems. Automated teller machines have reduced the need for bank visits to obtain cash andcarry out transactions. In general, automation has been responsible for the shift in the world economy from agrarian to industrial in the 19th century and from industrial to services in the 20th century.
The widespread impact of industrial automation raises social issues, among them its impact on employment. Historical concerns about the effects of automation date back to the beginning of theindustrial revolution, when a social movement of English textile machine operators in the early 1800s known as the Luddites protested against Jacquard's automated weaving looms — often by destroying such textile machines— that they felt threatened their jobs. One author made the following case. When automation was first introduced, it caused widespread fear. It was thought that thedisplacement of human operators by computerized systems would lead to severe unemployment.
Critics of automation contend that increased industrial automation causes increased unemployment; this was a pressing concern during the 1980s. One argument claims that this has happened invisibly in recent years, as the fact that many manufacturing jobs left the United States during the early 1990s was offset by a...