Automation is all about reducing human intervention . Sometimes it is employed to reduce human drudgery ( e.g. crane , domestic washing machine ), sometimes for better quality & productivity ( e.g CNC machine ) . Some products can not be manufactured without automated machine . e.g. Tooth brush , Plastic bucket , plastic pipe etc)
To replace a human being , an automation system also needs to have a brain , hands, legs, muscles , eyes , nose .
So, inventors developed electronic controllers & PLCs to replace the brain. Actuators like electric motors , pneumatic / hydraulic cylinders are developed to take care of movements. Electronic / electromechanical sensors developed to replace eye, nose & other sensory organs . Electrical switchgears are being used to power the actuators , which is nothing but the job of muscles.
To summarise , an automation system is a combination of all engineering branches.
Now when a machine is manufactured in millions per year ( e.g. washing machine , ATM machine , coffee vending machine ) , the manufacturer can afford to customise all such automation accessories so as to reduce the cost to survive in the competition. So, when it comes to repair such machine , one is dependant on the manufacturer.
On the contrary , industrial machines ( e.g. Injection moulding machine , CNC machines , Press machines , boilers ) are manufactured in quantity of hundreds per year. Some SPMs ( Special Purpose Machines) are manufactured in a single digit quantity. In such cases, manufacturer can not afford to develop own accessories . So, he prefers to buy reliable & proven automation accessories from reputed manufacturers. So, if you scan across different types of a machines for various applications from different manufacturers, you will find the same automation components being used . e,g, FESTO make pneumatic components , SIEMENS make PLCs, ABB make VFDs , Infra red sensors etc. All such components are readily available in the market.
This commonality gives rise to a new field , which is “Automation Engineering“.
Automation Engineering is all about designing & troubleshooting of control systems of industrial automated machines.
To know about how to enter into this field , read my next article “What is an Automation Engineer?“
What is an Automation Engineering?
As explained in my last article “What is Automation Engineering?”, automated machines used in industries generally use same components in the control mechanism, irrespective of the industrial vertical the machine is designed for. However, these components can be from different engineering branches e.g.
- Hydraulic & pneumatic components from Mechanical engineering.
- Induction motors . Switchgears from Electrical Engineering .
- PLCs, Sensors from Electronic engineering
- Temperature , pressure , flow sensors & controllers from Instrumentation engineering
- SCADA is a product of computer software technology.
Additionally, these products are readymade available at the market with almost similar features even though they are available from different manufacturers .
So, when conrol systems of such machine fail or need to be designed, a conventional electrical / electronic / mechanical engineer cannot complete the job singlehandedly. A group of 3-4 engineers from different engineering branches are needed simultaneously to accomplish the job. This is not only costly but also time consuming. So, now industry looks for an engineer who can single handedly troubleshoot or design control system of an automated machine, irrespective of his / her own engineering branch . Such an Engineer is called an “Automation Engineer“.
We will discuss the reasons behind the great demand for such automation engineers in my next article “Why Automation Engineers are in great demand?“
Why Automation Engineers are in great demand?
In my last article, we understood the concept of an “Automation Engineer.” Automation engineer is an engineer who can singlehandedly troubleshoot or design control systems of industrial automated machines , irrespective of his / her own branch of engineering.
Around 30 years ago, nobody spoke about automation in India . However , today, one realises that all manufacturing industries , small or large cannot avoid the use of automated machines. Why??
Because India is poised to become a global manufacturing hub. What does that mean ? Manufacturers in developed countries such as USA & European countries prefer to get the components of their product ( e.g. gear box of a car ) from Indian manufacturers. Why ? Naturally to cut the cost & being competitive in the market . This trend is going to get more Boost from ” Make in India ” scheme of Indian Government. So, more & more Indian manufacturers have started manufacturing parts for export.
Now, when it comes to the export market , there are three prerequisites:
- World class quality
- On time delivery ( many automotive industries work in JIT ( Just In Time ) delivery model)
- Cost competitiveness
If one needs to comply with these prerequisites , there is no alternative to use of automated machines. So, you will find that every manufacturing industry uses automated machines. We will call these industries “Machine Users”. These “Machine Users” need maintenance engineers to maintain the machines.
As there is a great demand for these machines , naturally there are more nos. Of machinery manufacturers coming in. These “Machine Manfacturers” need engineers to design the control system of the machine and also for after sales support.
Now Imagine , each manufacturer is either a machine manufacturer or machine user. There is no third category. If so, can we conclude that each manufacturing industry around you need an Automation Engineer. Very small industries may not afford to employ such engineers . So, it will outsource this activity, giving rise to entrepreneurship.
There is one more opportunity. All automation components used in the machine control systems are manufactured or distributed. Being technical products, they need application engineers , sales engineers, after sales support engineers , programmers , which supports the sales.
So if ideally each manufacturing industry is an opportunity for an automation engineer. It is not surprising that ” Automation Engineers are in great demand ” & presently the demand is much more than supply.
I’ll explain How Automation engg. is a prosperous & secured career in my next article.
Why Automation Engg. is a secured & prosperous career?
In one of my previous articles in this series, “How to choose a career? “, I have explained the importance of choosing the field based on abundance of jobs & progressiveness , & choosing the job profile , which is a knowledge based one .
Automation Engineering complies with both criteria in a perfect way. As explained in the earlier article, as automated machines are employed by each manufacturing industry , there is a great demand for Automation Engineers . Manufacturing industry in India is going to grow multifold in future , which is now also supported by ” Make in India ” movement .So, it is progressive too.
When it comes to job profile , Automation engineering is about design & maintenance of control system of machines. Both job profiles are knowledge based ones. When an engineer works in a knowledge based job profile , he/ she gains knowledge everyday , which adds to his/her value delivering ability. This ability empowers the engineer for growth & security.
So, imagine, if you have great value addition ability, which is required by almost each manufacturing industry globally, you have abundant choices of jobs . This will empower you to control your life in a better way & make yourself & your family happy.
Last but not the least , design & maintenance of automated machines is a very creative job profile which will add colour to your life…..
Automation Engg. is also a wiser option if one wants to start his/her own business . How ? Go through my next article “Why Automation Engg. Is one of the best options to start your own business ?“
Why Automation Engg. is one of the best options to start own business?
As explained earlier, Automation Engineering is all about design & troubleshooting of control system of automated machines. As the demand for automated machines/process plants is on rise , number of machine manufacturers is increasing day by day. Many of these machine / process plant manufacturers do have the domain knowledge i.e. they know the process or logic with which the machine / plant should operate . However, they may not have the knowledge of automation technologies, with which the logic can be implemented .
So such manufacturers outsource the design & manufacturing activity of control system . This practice gives rise to a business model called ” System Integration ” It is all about integrating multiple control system components so as to run a a machine as per the process requirements.
Integration consists of selecting the suitable electrical / pneumatic / hydraulic components , interfacing with each other , designing a suitable enclosure to accommodate all , preparing circuit diagrams & programming of intelligent components .
An automation engineer is able to do this integration activity very well. So, there are system integrators required in each industrialised city.
One does not require large space, investment , no. of workmen , costly machinery to start this business. So, it is an ideal proposal for young engineers to start own business.
Howevr to start such business, one need to be an Automation Engineer. In my next article, I have discussed ways to become an Automation Engineer.