Categories: General

What is Industrial Automation? Industry 4.0?

As we move through the next decade, we’re sure that you’ve noticed a big change in manufacturing and the workforce. What are we talking about? Industrial Automation.

More and more businesses and governments use automation, and this is due to the fact that it comes with numerous advantages. That’s why, today, we’ll be going over everything you need to know about industrial automation.

We’re going to try to break the concept down into easy-to-read sections, this way you can jump around if you feel the need to. Here is a look at what I have for you today:

  • What is industrial automation?
  • What is industry 4.0?
  • Is Industry 5.0 on the horizon? What will Industry 5.0 look like?
  • Big players in industrial automation
  • Industrial automation job opportunities
  • How to prepare yourself for a career in Industrial Automation

So now that you know what’s coming up, let’s dive right in.

What is industrial automation?

Industrial automation is a broad term for the automation of certain industries in the industrial sector. While it may seem complex, we’ll give you a couple of examples, this way you can see exactly what we mean. Let’s have a look.

How does industrial automation work?

Industrial automation began in the early 20 century, and this started with concepts like the assembly line. So when you think of automation, think about machines, or even more often now, robotics that are doing the work in place of workers.

One thing to keep in mind, before we really get into it, is that industrial automation can look like a lot of different things.

The industry has evolved quite a bit in the last 20 years, and it has forever changed the manufacturing landscape. This is due to the fact that machines are able to do more with less human assistance. You’ll find industrial automation in fields like medicine, pharmaceuticals, energy production, food and beverage, the automotive world, and even construction.

Most automation systems will have a PLC (programmable logic controller), PC, or robotic system at its core. Think of industrial automation as revolutions with control panels, control rooms, heavy machinery, and advanced equipment.

What is an example of modern industrial automation?

Let’s take a car manufacturer into consideration for a moment. So think of a company like Ford, and how they make their cars now. Ford used to make their vehicles by hand, but this is no longer the case. Now, machines run by human operators tend to build cars, and they can build them much faster, with a better repeatability and quality.

Also, another thing to consider with modern industrial automation, is how these systems work together. Computer technology is at the forefront, and helps make sure that certain systems work together with little to no human assistance. This is why it’s considered industrial automation.

So industrial automation is a broad term encompassing the concept of machines doing the work that humans used to do.

What is Industry 4.0?

Now that you know what industrial automation is, it’s time to take a look at industry 4.0. If you haven’t heard this term already, trust us on this one, this is the section for you. Let’s take a look.

How does industry 4.0 work?

So remember how we talked about industrial automation? Industry 4.0 is fairly similar, but builds upon the types of machines used, and the computers that help guide them. This means that industry 4.0 is geared towards automation in regard to computing and computers.

Industry 4.0 is all about connectivity, and the way industry responds to the needs of society. That’s the premise of industry 4.0, and in a way the human touch has been reduced quite a bit. With smarter computers and technologies, Industry 4.0 is about big data to gain a competitive edge.

Here is a look at what Industry 4.0 is considered:

  • Computing
  • Cloud computing
  • Cognitive computing
  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
  • Big Data Platforms
  • Cyber physical systems
  • Artificial intelligence

So to put it simply, industry 4.0 is industrial automation that tends to focus on computing and the exchange of data technologies.

Check out the video below from KPMG that covers the key concepts of Industry 4.0.

Is Industry 5.0 on the horizon? What will it look like?

Now that we’ve gone over industry 4.0, it’s time to take a look at the future. What is the future you ask? Industry 5.0. So let’s take a look.

Is industry 5.0 coming?

Industry 5.0 is coming faster than you probably think. Within the next decade pieces of industry 5.0 will be implemented, and a lot of the concepts build upon the automation revolution achieved in Industry 4.0.

While we don’t have an exact time for its arrival, we’re pretty certain you’ll see it being implemented within the next decade or two.

How is industry 5.0 different than industry 4.0?

A lot of people are nervous about how smart our technology has become, and that fear makes sense. Now, while this may be the case, Industry 5.0 might feel like a sigh of relief to some of you.

This is due to the fact that Industry 5.0 is going to be much more focused on human-machine interaction, as opposed to machines completing tasks entirely on their own.

While industry 5.0 may seem like a step backwards, trust us on this one, it’s definitely a step forward that we need.

Big players in industrial automation

Now that you know the intricacies surrounding Industrial Automation and Industry 4.0, we want to set time aside to show you a few of the big players in the industry. Let’s take a look.

Rockwell Automation

Rockwell Automation is a huge company that is based within the United States. They have roughly 80 offices located around the globe, with a home base in Milwaukee, USA. This company is the defacto solution provider in North America, specializing in PLC and related technologies.

Here is a look at what Rockwell offers:

  • Condition monitoring
  • Programmable Logic Control
  • Advanced process control
  • Servo Drives
  • Drive based systems
  • Design software
  • Operation software
  • Motion control

Keep in mind that this is just the forefront of what Rockwell offers, but when push comes to shove, they’re definitely one of the modern industrial automation leaders in the United States.

Siemens

Siemens is one of the largest companies for industrial automation solutions in Europe. They tend to focus on large projects, and they’re all about innovation, engineering, and perfection. Siemens is an important company to look at, because they tend to work well with energy efficiency and resource management.

Here is a look at what Siemens specializes in:

  • Steam based turbines
  • Compressors for turbo systems
  • Switchboards
  • Circuit boards
  • Process Control
  • Medical imaging
  • Diagnostics
  • Clinical IT services
  • Remote systems for monitoring

Siemens is one of the pioneers of industrial automation, and their engineering has led to innovations in the automotive and medical world.

ABB

ABB is one of the largest industrial automation companies in the world. This is due to the fact that they have a specialized approach to robotics, and you’ll find ABB tech within a lot of major companies. ABB is also a huge company, and is comprised of offices in over 100 different locations.

Here is a look at what ABB specializes in:

  • High voltage products
  • Low voltage products
  • Control room solutions
  • Control room monitoring equipment
  • Robotics

So when you think of the leaders in industrial automaton, think about the companies that provide advanced systems. This can range from engineering energy sources, all of the way to manufacturing of robotic services. Pretty cool stuff, right?

Industrial automation job opportunities

When you think about industrial automation from a job stance, it may seem like there isn’t much to work with. While industrial automation may reduce the amount of human production type jobs needed, that doesn’t mean that there are no jobs left.

To the contrary, there has been explosion of new jobs because of it. Therefore, in this section, we’ll show you some interesting job opportunities surrounding industrial automation.

Engineering

Engineering has evolved quite a bit, and this is due to the fact that technology has advanced at a rapid pace. This has opened up a world of opportunity for those of you who want to pursue a career in automation based engineering.

These jobs tend to vary, but the main focus is working with control systems and robotics to engineer solutions to modern problems.

Is there a big job market for this? Absolutely, but you’ll need to put in some time learning about industrial automation before you jump right in. Also, if you want to make some serious cash, you can make well over 6-figures in an engineering job within this field.

IT tech and service tech

IT companies have grown at a rapid pace. This is due to the fact that technology doesn’t always work the way we need it to, which means that someone is going to have to fix it. This is where IT support comes in, and there are a whole lot of jobs for those of you who have a knack for repairing computers or robotics.

Plus, if you don’t feel like working for someone else, freelance based IT jobs have been on the rise recently. This means that you can even start your own business and find success that way. The risk may be higher, but there is no ceiling if it’s your own company.

How much can you make in IT? Well over 6-figures if you find the right job.

Programming

Programming is another field that has grown quite a bit, and could be a great career choice. This is due to the fact that someone has to be responsible for programming PLCs and Robotic systems, and that person can be you. I did an article highlighting how to become a PLC programmer. Be sure to check it out!

Can you make 6-figures as a programmer? If you’re a good one, absolutely.

Sales (B2B)

This opportunity probably caught you off guard, right? While sales may seem far from engineering, who do you think sells those products? Therefore, when push comes to shove, industrial automation has led to an increase in sales based jobs revolving around selling robotics to major companies.

It might not be the most exciting, but trust us on this one, it will pay the bills.

Some jobs are salaried and others are commission based. Either way, attaining a 6-figure income is definitely possible.

Is industrial automation a good field to pursue?

The three job paths that we just showed you can all be 6-figure jobs. Now, with the median income being just about $50,000 in the United States, we definitely think that industrial automation is worth chasing. Plus, as we showed you with industry 5.0 coming up, the industry will be creating jobs for decades to come. 

If you love technology, and where it’s going, pursuing a job in industrial automation is definitely a good idea.

How to prepare yourself for a career in Industrial Automation

Now that you know what types of jobs are out there, if this sounds interesting to you, it might be time to consider preparing yourself for a career in industrial automation. So if this is how you feel, you’ll definitely want to pay close attention to this section.

College and/or University

The first thing you should consider is a Masters or Bachelors degree from an accredited college or university. We want to talk about this first, because this is sort of a prerequisite to what we’ll go over in a moment.

So if you’re considering a job within the automation industry, you should really consider applying to a university that’s affordable and credible.

Choose a path

The next part of the process involves finding your niche. This means that you’ll need to consider what you like and dislike, and stick to it. Some viable options for study are:

  • Engineering
  • Computer science
  • Coding
  • IT and repair
  • Electrical systems
  • Mathematics

So there are quite a few things you can choose, but keep in mind that each path will lead to a different outcome.

Do your research

You can do this while you’re looking for a job, or even before you start going to school. You should always do a bit of market research, this way you know what jobs are available and growing. Therefore, we definitely recommend doing a few searches on how the path you’re going to take can be impacted in the future.

It’s not a hard path to follow, but it’s definitely a path that will take some work. So make sure you find what you like, and get ready to do some serious learning.

Skilled Trades will open up many opportunities

Over the last couple of decades a real push towards post-secondary education has left a big hole in the skilled trades sector. However, the a skilled trade can open up a world of opportunity in industrial automation. Here is a short-list of skilled trades you may consider for a career linked to industrial automation:

  • Electrician
  • Millwright/Mechanic
  • Pipe-fitter/Gas-fitter
  • Welder

Just to name a few.

Final Words…

I hope you enjoyed this article, and you now have a better grasp on what industrial automation and industry 4.0 is.

If you haven’t done so yet, I do encourage you to become a member of the site. PLCGurus.NET is quickly becoming one of the largest and fastest growing communities of professional engineers, technicians and technologists who all share a passion for industrial automation and control systems.

Registration is and will always remain completely free. Register Here!

Also, check out our YouTube Channel to see some great videos…and don’t forget to like and subscribe to our channel! If you enjoyed this article be sure to check out some of these good reads too:

Lastly, if you run  into any problems in your day-to-day engineering activities please be sure to check out our Live and Interactive PLC Forum! And if you so desire, assist other community members by replying or offering helpful information to the questions or challenges they may be facing right now! Thanks for reading.

Fred Graham

Hi! Fred here, I am the founding member and site moderator here at PLCGurus.NET. I'd like to be the first to welcome you to the site. I have over 20 years in the Industrial Automation and Control Systems field. Be sure to Register Today!

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