Automation in Business Enterprises

The concept of automation has brought another revolution in industrial world. This has resulted in phenomenal growth in industrial arena by providing wide range of products with minimum cost and efforts.

Automation implies use of machines and equipments for performing physical and mental operations in a production operation in place of human beings. Automation can be visualized as an electronic brain with capacity of taking routine and logical decisions connected with control and planning functions of management. Routine decisions can belike scheduling, routing, dispatching and inspection of modifications of operations to see that the whole system operates according to the planned strategy.

In the absence of any human intervention or activity automation can be considered as a self regulating and controlling system. Mechanization provides the self regulating property and performing manual operations by means of mechanized operations.

Thus automation can be defined as “A system of doing work where material handling, production process and product design are integrated through mechanization of thoughts and to achieve a self regulating system.
In automation the machines and equipment required to perform various operations process are sequent arranged in order of hierarchy of operations. Electronic devices are used to record, store and interpretation of information at various stages of production .Machines is used to operate other machines.

Automation can be done at various levels of the manufacturing system in parts or as a whole. Some of the situations can be:

• Handling of raw materials, semi finished goods or finished goods. Instead of doing the work manually the operation can be done by means of trolleys, conveyer belts, overhead cranes, lifts etc. This eliminates chances of losses due to handling and saves valuable time.

• Sophisticated, reliable and efficient machines and equipment can be used in production process. This will ensure both quality and quantity of the product desired.

• Inspection and quality control operations can be done by means of mechanical devices. This eliminates chances of human bias and error.

Use of machines and equipment in automation ensures production of high quality products at minimum cost. This also increases the confidence of consumers in the product and stabilizes the demand for the product. There is a general fear that automation leads to unemployment. But on the other hand operation of machines and equipments in the system need highly skilled and qualified manpower. So the technical skills of the system increase with reduction in size. It goes without saying that automation ensures high level of efficiency and capacity utilization.

Advantages of automation are:

• Better quality of goods and services,
• Reduction in direct labor cost,
• Effective control on operations,
• Greater accuracy, more output, greater speed,
• Minimization of waste,
• Production planning and control is to be done in the beginning only,
• Working conditions can be improved greatly since much of the work follows an orderly path,
• The waste does not come into much contact with the equipment; also the design of the special purpose equipment is usually superior to that of general purpose equipment.
• Direct and indirect costs, Inventories, Set-up times and lead times are all reduced. The space and equipment utilization is improved,
• Since the human inputs in the production are minimized, the quality is also improved. Human beings are more erratic than machines,
• Throughput time is reduced and therefore service to the customers is enhanced.

Disadvantages of automation are:

• High capital investment,
• High maintenance costs and requirement of labor of high caliber,
• Requires highly skilled manpower,
• Can create unemployment,
• Scheduling and routing operations are difficult and time consuming,
• Restriction in designing and construction of buildings,
• Larger inventories,
• Continuous power supply,
• Automation equipment is highly inflexible i.e. if a new product is to be introduced the existing equipment may have to be salvaged entirely,
• Any break down anywhere would lead to complete shut-down.


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