Automation of production systems can be classified into three basic types:
1. Fixed automation (Hard Automation)
2. Programmable automation (Soft Automation)
3. Flexible automation.
1. Fixed automation (Hard automation): Fixed automation refers to the use of special purpose equipment to automate a fixed sequence of processing or assembly operations. Each of the operation in the sequence is usually simple, involving perhaps a plain linear or rotational motion or an uncomplicated combination of two. It is relatively difficult to accomodate changes in the product design. This is called hard automation.
1. Low unit cost
2. Automated material handling
3. High production rate.
1. High initial Investment
2. Relatively inflexible in accommodating product changes.
2. Programmable automation: In programmable automation, the production equipment is designed with the capability to change the sequence of operations to accomodate different product configurations. The operation sequence is controlled by a program, which is a set of instructions coded. So that they can be read and interpreted by the system. New programs can be prepared and entered into the equipment to produce new products.
1. Flexible to deal with design variations.
2. Suitable for batch production.
1. High investment in general purpose equipment
2. Lower production rate than fixed automation.
Example: Numerical controlled machine tools, industrial robots and programmable logic controller.
3. Fixed Automation: (Soft automation): Flexible automation is an extension of programmable automation. A flexible automation system is capable of producing a variety of parts with virtually no time lost for changeovers from one part style to the next. There is no lost production time while reprogramming the system and altering the physical set up.
1. Continuous production of variable mixtures of product.
2. Flexible to deal with product design variation.
1. Medium production rate
2. High investment.
3. High ‘unit cost relative to fixed automation.