Automation is the use of technology in manufacturing machines that take over work normally done by humans. It is nothing but the manual operation done by computerized techniques and advanced technologies, usually electronic hardware.

Based on the production quantity and the product variety the automation has been classified into three types. They are:

1. Fixed Automation: In fixed automation, the production equipment is designed in such a way the continuous or sequence of operations is fixed or made constant by the equipment configuration. Each operation is simple and the required motions may be linear, rotational and even the combination of the two, such as rotating spindle. Fixed Automation is combination and coordination of many operations into single equipment which makes the system complex. Features of fixed automation system are:

  • High initial investment for custom engineered equipment
  • High rates of production
  • Inflexibility of the system for accommodating the product variety

The fixed automation is used for the products which are produced in large quantities and the system having high production rates. The initial cost of the equipment is spread over large number of units so the cost will be affective when compared with the other types of production. Eg: Automated assembly machines.

2. Programmable Automation: In programmable automation the production equipment is a system where the sequences of operations are going to be changed to accommodate different production configurations. The operation sequence is controlled by a program which is a collection of different instructional codes which are read and interpreted by the system. To produce new products new programs are to be written. Some of the features of programmable automation are:

  • High investment for general purpose equipment
  • Lower production rates than the fixed automation
  • Flexibility to deal with different changes in the configuration
  • For batch production programmable automation is to be used.

This is used for small and medium volume productions.
Eg: Numerically controlled tools

3. Flexible automation: It’s an extension of the programmable automation. It produces a variety of products with no time lost. There is no loss in the production time when the reprogramming is done. Some features of flexible automation are:

  • High investment for a custom engineered equipment.
  • Medium rates of production rates.
  • Flexibility to deal with different production designs
  • Continuous production of different varieties.

These are the different types of automation based on the production systems.