It’s hard to imagine a world without automated systems in the 21st century. Robotics and computer technology have become a part of almost every aspect of our lives — especially in the workplace. Automation has made many processes more efficient, from manufacturing to retail to supply.
Modular automation is one of the biggest improvements in automated technology. This framework is highly flexible, allowing people to easily swap or change the functionality of machines in the network to suit different purposes. A modular automation framework can save companies time and money in production.
What Is Modular Automation?
A modular automation framework is a mechanical technology that instantly modifies a production cell without halting the system. It breaks down production cells into modules, smaller units of standard modular components.
Breaking them down into smaller cells enables modules to change individually and create different combinations. Each module has all the necessary components for this to be possible.
Modular automation frameworks start with standardized process modules that can perform different tasks. Each is a link in the production chain and can interact with others. A typical framework consists of process control, batch and production control modules. This way, the manufacturer can customize the framework to meet their needs.
This type of framework can save up to 50% on engineering resources. Modular systems are also far more efficient than traditional automated processes, which require much more time and effort to change. These frameworks also come with a wide range of other advantages.
Highly Flexible Automation Framework
Modular automation was developed in response to shifting consumer demand. Traditional automated processes are purposed to create only one type of product at a time. Changes are complicated and time-consuming since all the machines must be replaced or reprogrammed.
Swapping out modules on the fly can make automated processes highly flexible and efficient. This can allow a manufacturing facility to build multiple products at once or in quick succession. This can increase productivity and ensure the plant stays open to meet consumer demands.
Increased Connectivity of Modules and Devices
One of the main features of modular automation frameworks is their interconnectivity. Each module can equip Internet of Things (IoT) technology.
IoT is the framework by which multiple devices are connected. For example, instead of all machines in an assembly line operating separately from each other, they can work as one unit connected through the IoT network.
Automated technology is becoming more advanced, and taking advantage of the IoT network can make it much more efficient while reducing input from human operators.
This is especially important for modular automation. Because modules are designed to be swapped out to modify the framework on the fly, they should be easily programmable. Being connected to a single network makes managing each one easier.
IoT technology also makes it easy to program each module to work on individual or collective tasks. It is also easy to track what each one is doing and make necessary corrections.
Blockchain is another recent technology vital to modular automation. It’s more well-known in the cryptocurrency and financial sectors but has a wide range of applications in robotics.
Blockchain technology is a way to submit and track data quickly and securely. In finance, it’s used as a public ledger that stores a client’s information in blocks connected through a chain. Every time new information is added, another block is added to the chain.
In robotics, this method can enhance communication between machines in a modular automated network. Blockchain can store instructions and assignments for each module. Once a machine’s first task is done, it can automatically move on to the next one in the chain.
This can increase automated systems’ independence, requiring less input from human operators. Such a system makes modular automation frameworks even more efficient by allowing robots to perform more tasks independently.
Greater Productivity and Less Workload
One of the most significant benefits of modular automation is that it can decrease employee workload. This can be especially useful if a company or organization suffers from a staff shortage, which has become more common after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Modular automation frameworks can take over tasks that could be difficult for human workers. These systems are specifically designed to handle simple but monotonous jobs so people can perform other, more complex things robotics might not be able to do.
In addition, modular automation systems can lead to more efficient use of resources. Because machines do not need to rest, they can continue working for far longer than people can. This increases productivity, especially if the manufacturing facility produces more than one product type.
Fewer Workplace Accidents
Modular automation can also help prevent workplace accidents. Overworked employees are generally under more stress and vulnerable to fatigue. This causes many injuries in manufacturing and industrial work areas.
Modular automation can reduce stress and fatigue in employees and lets them take on more arduous tasks, such as moving heavy objects. Automatic guided vehicles, built into a modular automation framework, can transport resources and hazardous materials around the facility.
Modular automation systems can perform multiple tasks simultaneously and do more than a traditional automated framework. Human workers can supervise and maintain these machines instead of doing the potentially dangerous work themselves.
Greater Consistency in Performance
Robotics and computers in modular automation make fewer mistakes than human workers. This can lead to greater consistency in products, boosting efficiency and sales.
It is easy to find mistakes that occurred through the computer system. Once the module containing the error is found, it can be reprogrammed or swapped out for another that can perform the same task correctly.
This can save time and resources compared to finding and training people to ensure the mistake does not happen again. Employees making errors can also lead to a drop in productivity if the entire team has to be retrained and could result in injury.
Modular Automation Is the New Standard
While once thought of as only a novel concept, modular automation technology is quickly becoming the standard in automation processes — especially in the manufacturing and industrial sectors.
The system’s flexibility can save companies time, money and resources that would otherwise be spent on replacing parts in traditional automated systems. This has the added benefit of increasing productivity while relieving stress from human workers, making the workplace safer.
Emily Newton is a technology and industrial journalist. She is also the Editor in Chief of Revolutionized. She has over five years covering stories about warehousing, logistics and distribution.