Automation is one of the two mainstream trends that, together with digitalization, shape the development of technical progress in the early 21st century. The purpose of automation is to spare humans as much effort as possible relegating repetitive, monotonous, and dangerous operations to robots and machines, thus streamlining our habitat and leaving us more time to pursue productive or leisure-time activities.
Inventive scientists and savvy engineers first of all turned their gaze to shop floors automating a lot of industrial processes – from the assemblage and packing to material handling, showing that literally, the sky is the limit. Later, the impact of automation started to be felt in our domestic environment, where we see the ubiquitous effects of automation in numerous applications – from garage doors and shelves through power windows and automatic louvers to adjustable desks. Moreover, automation may take different guises depending on its sphere of responsibility – from compact but powerful and fast linear actuators to sturdy and deliberate robotic arms.
Being elated by the amenities the rapid pace of technological revolution has ushered, we may fail to notice the negative effects of automation.
Disadvantages of Automation
Like any other technological development, automation issues have their downsides.
1. Substantial Initial Investment
To make machines toil for you, you should buy them, install, and maintain their functionality. Plus, you may have to conduct some preliminary research and train personnel to use automated equipment efficiently. All of this spells huge amounts of money, which may eventually exceed the cost of manual production. And the higher the degree of automation is, the more expensive its introduction becomes.
2. Loss of Jobs
Machines increasingly replace humans in processes where sheer physical strength and endurance are required and creativity is kept to a minimum. But these processes now made redundant by the advent of mechanization had provided millions of people with employment. So the inauguration of automation entails at least retraining employees introducing them to new skills to stay competitive in the novel technological reality.
3. Decrease of Versatility
The drive for automation runs counter to another modern trend – customization. Being programmed to complete a narrow scope of specialized tasks, machines can’t outperform humans in flexibility and versatility. Moreover, automated mechanisms are typically standardized to suit a great number of users rendering one-off customization impossible.
4. Possible Pollution Issues
Workplace pollution is nothing uncommon in highly automated environments. Yet, it is up to humans to handle this problem. For instance, you can replace hydraulic actuators that are subject to leakage of the fluid used to operate them, with their electric counterparts whose functioning is extremely environment-friendly.
Whatever shortcomings the advent of automation may have in store, they are definitely offset by the boons it brings.
Advantages of Automation
There are numerous proofs why automation is good and here are just a few of them.
1. Boost in Production Capacity
Machines can manufacture larger amounts of products working tirelessly 24/7 thus increasing your overall profits. Automating some aspects of your workflow will speed up the production allowing you to yield more items per working day. All of this amounts to a surge in competitiveness, which all entrepreneurs crave for.
2. Elimination of Human Factor
Machines can’t rival humans in creativity and adaptability, yet humans are subject to numerous factors that make them inferior to machines. Mechanisms don’t make mistakes, they don’t take breaks or go on vacations, and never call in sick. They don’t need days off and can work on weekends. And it goes without saying that related employee expenditures are non-existent in case you enlist machines to do the job.
3. Labor Force Retargeting
Replacing humans in some repetitive tasks, machines don't oust them from the shop floors altogether. On the contrary, they free us to pursue more important and complex undertakings that are above the machines' heads so far.
4. Consistency Excellence
No matter how many times a linear actuator or any other mechanism repeats a similar operation, the accuracy and quality standards are always the same. It rules out defects and errors and enhances the consistency and precision of the output. The latter benefit has one more perk – a more efficient usage of materials, which means less scrap and thus mitigation of harm to ecology.
5. Revenue Increment
Despite the considerable capital assets you have to invest in automation, the expenses will pay off in the long run. All the above-mentioned boons aggregate to spell the decrease of production expenditures. And the less you spend, the greater your net income is.
6. Increased Safety
Automation is most welcome in the adverse working conditions that may pose a risk for human health. Thus, the introduction of automation curtails manual handling of products and equipment, consequently reducing injuries and sick leave costs and bringing downtime to the minimum.
Our civilization is evolving at a tremendous rate and automated mechanisms are at the forefront of technological progress. Often being essays in the field, they have their merits and demerits. Yet, when we compare the pros and cons of automation, it becomes evident that the former significantly outweigh the latter.