What is industrial automation? Types & benefits (2024)

March 26, 2024
Standard Bots robot visualizer

What is industrial automation?

Industrial automation refers to using machines, control systems and information technologies to handle industrial processes with as little human assistance as possible. 

As a factory owner, implementing automation means your equipment and machinery can largely operate on their own using control systems like sensors, embedded devices, and actuators.

Why implement industrial automation at all?

If you own a factory, industrial automation should 100% be on your radar. 

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Cutting down costs big time. Automating processes can significantly lower operating costs. Once the initial investment in equipment is over and done with, automation reduces the need for human labor and the costs associated with it like wages, benefits, and training. 
  • Industrial automation allows operations to go on for pretty much ever, leading to increased productivity. Automated systems don’t need breaks, vacations or sleep (which you do need to catch up on) — they can work 24/7/365. Automation also performs repetitive tasks much faster and more accurately than humans. This results in higher throughput and greater output.
  • Automated systems reduce mistakes and keep quality high. They follow the same precise steps every time, minimizing variability. Automated inspection systems also help catch flaws early. Overall, automation leads to higher, more consistent quality at lower cost.
  • Automated data collection makes things more accurate and provides key production information for better decision-making. Automated systems can track thousands of data points in real time, giving managers unseen visibility into operations. Analyzing this data helps optimize processes and identify areas for improvement.

What options exist for industrial automation?

There are several approaches companies can take to automate their operations. 

  • One of the most common forms of industrial automation is robots. Industrial robots are programmed machines that perform tasks such as welding, painting, assembly, pick and place, packaging, and palletizing. Robots have speed, endurance, accuracy, and reliability — all big wins for pretty much any industrial process! 
  • If your factory deals with moving and tracking inventory, a logistics system can help keep things moving along. Systems, like automated guided vehicles (AGVs), can shuttle materials between workstations without human operators. Conveyor belts and automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) can also move and store inventory efficiently with minimal effort.
  • For companies focused on distribution and fulfillment, automating order picking can sound like magic. Options like pick-to-light systems, voice-directed or light-directed order picking can guide workers to the correct items to fill orders.

    Automated arms and AGVs are also normal in some warehouses, where they pick items from shelves.
  • High-end quality control systems: Using advanced vision systems and sensors, these systems meticulously inspect and ensure product quality, identifying flaws and non-conformities faster than even the most eagle-eyed human.
  • Automating assembly lines: Robotic arms and automated machinery streamline assembly processes, upping efficiency and consistency while whittling down human error in product assembly tasks.

Industrial automation robots: Automating the mundane

Industrial robots can keep going almost indefinitely apart from the one or two short maintenance breaks. 

They’re extremely precise and consistent, producing high-quality work. They can perform repetitive, dangerous, and difficult tasks that humans would rather not do (even if the pay is good).

If you're just getting started with automation, industrial robots are a great place to start. Many robotics companies offer "collaborative robots" or "Cobots" that are super easy and intuitive to program and deploy. 

Cobots can work side-by-side with humans with no need for safety cages. Also, they’re very flexible and can be reprogrammed to perform different tasks.

As a rule of thumb, Cobots are more affordable and easier to implement than traditional industrial robots. Mostly, that comes down to intuitive interfaces and practically zero need for a specialized coding background. 

This makes them accessible even for small businesses!

Logistics systems: Now we’re getting somewhere

Logistics systems are all about optimizing the flow of raw materials and finished goods. For many factories, logistics can be one of the biggest costs and headaches. 

Automating your logistics with bots and software can massively bring down costs. 

You have a few options for automating logistics: 

  • Conveyor belts and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) can shuttle materials between workstations, warehouses, and loading docks. AGVs in particular are flexible and can navigate around obstacles. 
  • Warehouse management systems use software and robots to organize, track, and retrieve inventory quickly and accurately. An automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) uses giant robotic cranes to quickly lift and move entire racks of goods. For order fulfillment, automated picking systems can select and group items for shipping.
Standard Bots routine editor

Quality control: Seeing what you can’t 

Quality Control Systems stand out as the eagle-eyed watchdogs of productive processes. 

How? By using cutting-edge vision systems and precise sensors, these systems scrutinize every minute detail of products moving down the line, quickly spotting and flagging any imperfections. 

This not only ensures that the final product meets the stringent quality standards consumers expect but also significantly minimizes waste by catching errors early in the production process.

Order picking: The backbone of warehousing

Order picking innovations totally streamline the picking process, which enables a rapid and accurate retrieval of products for shipping. 

All in all, by integrating robotic technology, warehouses can significantly reduce the time spent on fulfilling orders, minimize errors, and enhance overall operational throughput. 

This automation also enables a smoother flow of goods from warehouse to customer — a cornerstone of meeting the increasing demand for quick delivery times in today’s ecommerce-driven market.

Assembly line automation: Engineering efficiency

Assembly line automation is replacing the monotony of manual labor with the precision and delightful consistency of robotic arms and automated equipment. 

Assembly line automation can rock out on a variety of assembly tasks — from simple component placement to complex product assembly — with absolute accuracy and speed.

The result? A significant oomph in production efficiency and a drastic reduction in human error.

Where should you start? 

The first step is to evaluate your production processes and identify areas that would benefit most from automation the low-hanging fruit. 

As a rule of thumb, look for repetitive, mundane tasks that need speed, precision, or round-the-clock operation. 

Some areas ripe for automation include:

  • Assembly line tasks like welding, painting, or packaging. Robots can work faster and more accurately than humans for these highly repetitive jobs. You’ll free up their brainpower for higher-level tasks too.
  • Material transport and logistics. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and conveyor systems can efficiently move materials and products through your facility 24/7.
  • Order picking. Automated picking systems with robotic arms or AGVs can quickly retrieve parts and materials to fill customer orders.
  • Inspection and QC. You know you want these. These automated systems can scan for flaws faster than someone with 20/20 vision. 

Now, once you’ve identified key areas, you’ll need to assess which options make sense for your needs and budget. 

Basic automation like Conveyors or pick and place robots are relatively affordable. 

Conversely, advanced systems with robotic arms, AGVs and automated inspection will need a much larger upfront investment — but can yield yummy long-term benefits.

Summing up

By now, you should have a solid understanding of what automation is, the major benefits it offers, and the different types of automation solutions to consider. 

After that, the next step is to take a close look at your manufacturing operations and identify where automation can drive the most impact. 

Start small with a pilot project, learn from it, and then scale up from there!

Next steps

Looking to elevate your shop floor with industrial automation? Standard Bots' RO1 shines as a leader in the Six-Axis articulated robot arm space, perfectly suited for both burgeoning businesses and industry giants.

  • Affordable high-tech solution: Providing features on par with pricier competitors for half the price, it brings elite automation within reach of companies large and small.
  • Setting new performance standards: With an industry-leading 18 kg payload coupled with best-in-class speed and accuracy, RO1 consistently raises the bar, thanks to its self-learning technology that's as sophisticated as GPT-4 AI, revolutionizing industry standards.
  • Safety as a priority: RO1 is meticulously designed with safety in mind, featuring an extensive array of sensors and protective measures to guarantee secure cooperation between robots and humans in various environments.
  • Continual learning and adaptation: At the forefront of automation innovation, RO1 excels in adaptability and ongoing enhancement, constantly tuning its operations through learned interactions.

Our dedicated team is on hand to assist in seamlessly incorporating RO1's cutting-edge capabilities into your shop floor. Try it now with our no-risk 30-day trial!

Standard Bots equipment manager
Standard Bots camera vision
Press contacts