Fixed Automation, also known as “hard automation,” refers to a system in which the sequence of processing (or assembly) operations is fixed by the equipment configuration. The operations in the sequence are usually simple. Fixed automation is typically used to produce high volumes of the same product or component, and the equipment is dedicated to this specific production.
Characteristics of Fixed Automation:
- High Production Rates: Fixed automation systems are designed to produce large quantities of the same product in a continuous flow.
- High Initial Investment: The cost to set up fixed automation is high due to the specialized equipment and configuration required.
- Rigidity: The system is set up for a specific task and isn’t easily adaptable or reconfigurable for other tasks.
- Lower Operational Costs: Once set up, operational costs are generally lower compared to other forms of automation due to reduced human intervention.
- Consistency: Fixed automation provides consistent and uniform output, ensuring high product quality.
Examples of Fixed Automation:
- Automated Car Washes: Once the process starts, every step is the same for each vehicle.
- Bottling Plants: Bottles are cleaned, filled, capped, and labeled in a fixed sequence without variation.
- Canned Goods Production: From cleaning to cooking, and finally canning, the sequence is consistent.
- Certain Parts of Automotive Production: While many parts of automotive assembly have moved to more flexible systems, there are areas, like welding a specific car model’s chassis, where fixed automation might still be used.
- Chemical Processes: Many chemical production processes require precise, repeated actions that are perfect for fixed automation.
- High Production Output: Fixed automation systems can produce large quantities in a relatively short amount of time.
- Consistent Quality: The chances of variability or human error are reduced.
- Reduced Per-Unit Cost: High production volume can lead to economies of scale.
- Lack of Flexibility: Changing the product or making modifications requires significant effort and re-investment.
- High Initial Costs: Setting up the automated system can be expensive.
- Economic Dependence on High Volume: Due to the high initial investment, it’s crucial for these systems to produce and sell large quantities to be economical.
In a rapidly changing market environment, where customization and adaptability become key, industries are moving towards more flexible automation systems. However, for stable products with consistent high demand, fixed automation remains an efficient and economical choice.