Automation in mechanical engineering is the process of using automation to replace human inputs, substituting them with mechanical, electrical or pneumatic elements with no need for a person to drive or control the work.
Mechanical engineers design and create automation systems that can do certain tasks automatically. This often includes continuous processing either directly by programmed logic controllers (PLC), or by sensors and actuators connected to data networks through industrial controller devices such as SCADA systems.
It also includes providing feedback to human operators of machinery, e.g., through displays, controls panels, HMI software applications and history logging software on personal computers (PCs). Mechanical engineers’ employment is expected to increase by 2% between 2021 and 2031, which is slower than the average for all occupations.
Automation has been achieved in mechanical engineering through the invention of machines. Machine tools, such as lathes, drill presses and milling machines, are used to make parts for other machines and products that we use on a daily basis.
Modern machine tools can accept digital input directly from a computer-aided design (CAD) system (or other software) and can output data in a variety of formats including 3-D models that can be processed with a milling machine or other computerized tool to quickly produce prototypes made out of plastic or metal.
Computer numerical control (CNC) technology permits the use of programmable hardware devices along with CAD systems to facilitate the process of building parts directly from digital designs.
Benefits Of Automation In Mechanical Engineering
Automation engineers work in the mechanical engineering industry, designing and developing mechanical systems and control systems. They may work on the manufacturing process, ensuring that it runs smoothly and efficiently, or they may work on the control systems, making sure that they are safe and effective.
According to study.com, employment in automation and robotic engineering is expected to grow by 4% between 2018 and 2028. Electrical engineers work with electrical equipment and systems. Automation engineers develop and implement systems that automate manufacturing processes.
Mechanical automation engineers develop and implement systems that automate mechanical processes. Engineering degree programs prepare students for careers in engineering. Manufacturing processes are the set of operations that convert raw materials into finished products.
1. Automation Enhances Productivity
Productivity can be defined as the relationship of output to input. It can be expressed as a ratio (outputs per unit of input), as an equation, or as the rate at which something is produced.
In general, efficiency is the measure of how effectively inputs are converted into outputs. A production system in which automation is used will have greater overall productivity than a similar system that uses manual labor wherever it is practical to do so.
2. Automation Increases Accuracy
Currently, there are about 140,586 mechanical engineers working in the US. Only 9.4% of mechanical engineers are female, compared to 90.6% of men.
Automation increases accuracy and repeatability. When a production process is linked to a computer, the result is an increase in overall productivity and a decrease in waste due to human error.
3. Automation Reduces Risk
The use of automation provides for a safe working environment and reduces the number of workplace accidents that occur as a result of human error. The elements of industrial automation include sensing, actuating, control and communication devices.
Automation makes it possible for larger machines to be used safely in hazardous areas such as military munitions plants or other explosive environments; this may also lead to increased safety measures being taken in otherwise-safe environments, such as increased safety distances between workers and machinery.
4. Automation Improves Quality
Automation includes a number of features that may improve quality. Some examples include built-in diagnostic capabilities, remote system monitoring and alarm features, machine checks and statistical process control (SPC).
5. Automation Increases Flexibility
Automation can reduce labor costs as well as improve quality and consistency. The overall flexibility of an automation system is determined by how quickly it can respond to changes in demand for its products or services, compared with manual methods; the degree of control that is possible over the sequence of production steps; and options for product customization.
6. Automation Reduces Waste
The increased repeatability of an automated production process means that fewer defective items will be shipped to customers. Automated processes can be monitored and controlled remotely, which may reduce the amount of time that workers must spend monitoring the production process.
7. Automation Reduces Job Stress
Mechanical engineers made an average pay of $93,201 in 2020, $37,247 more than the $55,954 average national salary.
Automating portions of a process will reduce the amount of time, effort and energy that workers devote to routine tasks. In light of the above benefits, workers may actually experience less job-related stress when they are performing activities related to automation.
8. Automation Creates Jobs
In addition to the direct impact of automation on manufacturing jobs, there are indirect impacts. Automation can reduce the costs of production, which can lead to lower prices for consumers and more demand for a product or service.
This can lead to higher demand for workers who support the automated process (e.g., machine operators, computer programmers and engineers).
9. Automation Reduces Worker Turnover
Automation makes it easier to keep employees satisfied with their jobs. As a result, workers may be less likely to leave an organization that uses automation technologies; this reduces the time and cost required to find and train new workers.
10. Automation Savings Can Be Passed Along To The Consumer
Automation may result in lower prices for consumers. This can be accomplished through lower labor costs, lower costs for parts or materials, and improved product quality.
In addition, automation has been shown to improve product innovation and responsiveness to customer needs.
Risks Of Automation In Mechanical Engineering
Electrical systems, computer science, artificial intelligence, human intervention, production efficiency are all important factors in the production process. By utilizing electrical systems and computer science, manufacturers can create a more efficient production process.
Artificial intelligence can also be used to streamline production and make it more efficient. Mechanical engineers’ wage GINI coefficient in 2015 was 0.245, which was lower than the 0.478 national average.
However, human intervention is still required in many cases, as computers cannot always make decisions on their own. Ultimately, production efficiency is increased when all of these factors are taken into consideration.
1. Automation Can Be A Threat To Workers
Automation can increase the efficiency of production processes and reduce labor costs. This may lead to job losses for some workers.
In addition, less skilled workers may be replaced with machines or with more highly skilled engineers and technicians who monitor the automated process. The general type of job impacted by automation is the one that is easily automated.
2. Automation Can Be A Threat To Smaller Businesses
Smaller organizations are often less able than larger firms to afford machinery and equipment necessary for automation. Therefore, automation may be more likely to occur in larger firms than in small firms that produce similar products or services.
3. Automation Can Be A Threat To Safety
From 281,755 in 2019 to 301,972 in 2020, the number of people employed as mechanical engineers has increased at a pace of 7.18%. Automation may put workers in dangerous situations since they have to perform fewer tasks and monitor fewer machines.
4. Automation Can Threaten Public Health And The Environment
Automated processes can produce products or services that pose hazards to the environment or to public health. Automation may lead to increased chemical exposure, increased noise levels and increased pollution of air, water, soil and other natural resources when industrial waste is emitted into the air, water or land.
Automated systems may also introduce new chemical contaminants in a workplace that were not present before automation was used; these contaminants might include substances such as pharmaceuticals, herbicides, insecticides, flame retardants and lubricants.
5. Automation Can Threaten Long-Term Employment Prospects
Automation may cause a shift in the type and number of jobs that are available in an organization. In some cases, automation increases employment by increasing demand for workers who support automated processes or perform other tasks related to automation (e.g., engineers, computer programmers, medical professionals).
However, automation may result in job losses for lower-skilled workers and contribute to a shortage of skilled labor (skilled labor includes workers with specialized training or post-secondary education). This shortage can be exacerbated by the fact that automation is likely to introduce new types of jobs.
6. Automation Can Make It More Difficult To Respond To Changes In Market Demand
Automation may reduce the frequency and/or extent of change at an organization; therefore, automation delays response to market demand.
7. Automation Can Decrease Quality
Automated processes produce products or services that are high quality and consistent; however, automation can also lead to lower quality products or services based on less rigorous inspection, testing, monitoring and control than is required in manual production processes.
8. Automation Can Lower Morale
Automation may lead to frustration among employees who are displaced by automation or whose jobs are changed significantly by automation. The stress of coping with these changes may also impact worker morale.
The automation of mechanical engineering is an important factor in the development of machine tool and manufacturing automation. Automation increases efficiency, which encourages businesses to adopt technology and adopt business practices that use automatable components for machine and factory operation.
Furthermore, with increased production volume or volume changes, it becomes more important to automate many process steps, including various types of machining.
Automation can decrease labor costs as well as improve product quality, reliability, consistency and predictability through increased accuracy and control over parts, services or processes than without automated control mechanisms.