1.1    Automation

Automation is the use of control systems and information technologies reducing the need for human intervention. In the scope of industrialization, automation is a step 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. Automation plays an increasingly important role in the world economy and in daily experience. Automation has had a notable impact in a wide range of highly visible industries beyond manufacturing. Once common telephone operators have been replaced largely by automated telephone switchboards and answering machines. Medical processes such as primary screening in electrocardiography or radiography and laboratory analysis 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 and carry 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.

1.1.1 Pros and Cons 
A few advantages of automation are:
  • Replacing human operators in tasks that involve hard physical or monotonous work.
  • Replacing humans in tasks performed in dangerous environments such as those with temperature extremes or radioactive and toxic atmospheres.
  • Making tasks that are beyond human capabilities easier. Handling heavy or large loads, manipulating tiny objects or the requirement to make products very quickly or slowly are examples of>
  • Economic improvement. Sometimes automation creates improvement in economy of enterprises or society, for example when a country increases income or improves its standard of living due to automation like Germany or Japan did in the 20th Century.
Some of the disadvantages of automation are:
  • Technology limits. Current technology is unable to automate all desired tasks.
  • Unpredictable development costs. The research and development cost of automating a process is difficult to predict accurately beforehand. Since this cost can have a large impact on profitability, it’s possible to finish automating a process only to discover that there’s no economic advantage in doing so.
  • Initial costs are relatively high. The automation of a new product required a huge initial investment in comparison with the unit cost of the product, although the cost of automation is spread in many product batches. The automation of a plant required a great initial investment too, although this cost is spread in the products to be produced.

The overall advantages would seem to outweigh the disadvantages. It can be safely said that areas which have embraced automation have a higher standard of living than those where more manual labor is required. At the same time the complaint is often made that automating tasks take jobs from people that used to build things by hand. Regardless of the social implications, there is no doubt that productivity is increased with proper automation techniques.

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Chapter 2


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