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Il progresso dell'automazione 2024

The Progress of Automation: From Assembly Lines to Smart Factories

Automation has significantly revolutionized business operations, and as the days go by, this transformation continues to gather speed. Going by today’s estimates, there will be full automation for about 50% of manufacturing processes come 2025.  That’s a huge milestone given that computer-based control systems were not available until after the middle of the twentieth century.

As automation technologies continue to advance, looking at the past and peeping into the future potential is crucial for businesses looking to take advantage of any opportunities that emerge.

In this post, we will take a deep dive into the path that industrial automation has taken. Our goal is to remind you that a business like yours can take advantage of automation opportunities today and be ready for tomorrow.


The Genesis of Assembly Lines

The start of industrial automation can be traced to the emergency of assembly lines in China during the pre-industrial revolution era. The movement of products on some kind of assembly line was popular in silk and pottery factories. In Europe, Venice-based The Venetian Arsenal is recorded to have used this strategy to speed up production.

During the Industrial Revolution, the assembly line concept became even more popular. When Eli Whitney introduced the idea of interchangeable parts, the assembly line was now set to be mainstream. More innovations happened and led to further advancement in assembly lines, for instance, communication and transport.

The automotive industry is credited with having developed the modern assembly line. The Ford Motor Company was particularly instrumental of this system that was widely adopted beyond the automotive industry, helping businesses increase their manufacturing efficiency and minimize costs.

Following this expansion in the technology, there was global development of modern assembly lines worldwide, especially in the mid-20th century. Automation and robotics were very instrumental in the development of assembly lines, as they added flexibility and precision.


Technologies Took Automation to New Levels

The control of machines and processes continued to develop tremendously after the improvement of the assembly line and the ensuing wide adoption. The leading technologies to spearhead this transformation were Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), robotics, and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Systems.

Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs)

Saying the invention of the PLCs in the 1960s revolutionized industrial automation would be an understatement. As you would guess, the automotive industry was the first to implement this exciting technology, specifically at General Motors in the late 1960s. The following decades saw the PLC develop significantly and thus the technology found use in varied environments.

With the widespread adoption of PLCs in different industries, custom requests started becoming the norm. That’s how the programmable human-machine interface (HMI) was born. This would later usher in internet connection to the industrial setup. The modern factory floor still uses PLCs, but the technology continues to evolve.


The relationship between industrial automation and robotics is very close. By industrial definition, automation is about operating and controlling industrial systems. This places robotics in the category of industrial automation.

Robotics brought a new dimension to industrial automation and made it easier and seamless to handle industrial processes including:

  • Pick and place
  • Manufacturing
  • Assembly tasks
  • Machine loading
  • Activities in hazardous environments
  • painting


Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Systems

To add to the two technologies, there came the equally revolutionary CNC systems. This technology entails the use of computer programs to automate 3D printing and machining. It is a combination of hardware and software for manufacturing processes and machining.

CNC systems have revolutionized industrial automation in many ways, including the capability to run on a 24/7 basis. Businesses that use these systems report improved product quality, higher competitiveness, and higher profits.


The Emergence of Smart Factories

Industry 4.0 and smart factories have grown in tandem, both having come to the scene in the 1990s. These factories are based on the concept of data collection and sharing, which elevates human participation in the factory to that of supervision.

These factories work in a digital ecosystem incorporating people, machines, big data, and AI. When well implemented, a smart factory does more than just data analysis; it predicts industrial events.

For a smart factory to achieve this, it should portray several characteristics, starting with the connection between workers and machines. IoT sensors and cloud computing have been instrumental in actualizing this characteristic. Sensors collect real-time data, which is availed to the workers via smart devices such as apps and wearable products.  

Augmented and virtual reality are also part of the smart factory environment, where they help in new product design.

In the smart factory era, the data derived from the sensors is highly valuable. Factory managers use the data for insights through advanced data analytics. The frequency of this data and the fact that the data collection process has no human interference.

Industrial automation and robotics complete the list of the main characteristics of an intelligent factory. Initially, industrial robots were mainly renowned for performing repetitive tasks. Today’s robots have merged with artificial intelligence and machine learning so they can accomplish more complicated tasks.  


Have you made the switch to the smart factory?

Every organization is at a unique point in the industrial automation transformation journey. However, the main question will always be whether an organization is ready for smart or intelligent manufacturing.

Use the following checklist to assess this readiness for your business:

  • Do you have the requisite industrial infrastructure?
  • Is your industrial cyber security good enough?
  • How reliable is the data collection and management system?
  • Do you have on-premises integration?
  • What is the visibility level?
  • What is the state of device-to-device connection?
  • Have you considered AI solutions?

Having assessed your situation, it will be easier to craft an implementation strategy that outlines all the resources and timelines required.



Industrial automation has come a long way, from the time of the assembly lines to today when factories are connected to the cloud. As we have realized from this review, the application of intelligent factory technologies may not be instant, but with well-defined options, the transformation is on the right track.

By implementing intelligent factory technologies in your operations, you will not only enhance profitability but also position the business for unpredictable future dynamics. Take the first step towards achieving an intelligent factory even if you have only a few sensors and computers.

At DMS Tech Mart, we deliver the latest in industrial automation supplies suitable for any point of the smart factory transformation. Go here to sample some of the products available for your business.

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