Automation History started in a newly built factory in 1913. Ford Motor Company introduced the assembly line for car production. Prior to this, single cars were built by a number of skilled and unskilled workers, in an old factory.
So the assembly line can be considered one of the first forms of automation in the manufacturing industry. It certainly boosted Ford Motor’s production rates, as well as their profits. But he was very good to his employees. Giving them a rate of pay over and above other industries in the area. Their pay even allowed them to own one of the cars they produced, which was unheard of in the industry.
Ford’s assembly line and mass production was the first in the world; cutting the car assembly time from one car every twelve hours to a car every one and a half hours.
1930’s Automation Advance
The term automation, inspired by the earlier word automatic (coming from automaton), was not widely used before 1947, when General Motors established the automation department. It was during this time that industry was rapidly adopting feedback controllers, which were introduced in the 1930s.
Japan was in the forefront of developing components for use in industrial manufacturing automation. During the 1930’s one of their forward looking companies developed a highly accurate electrical timer, along with the first micro-switch and protective relays. All of these were immediately used in industry.
At about this time, the rest of the world were beginning to see the advantages of automation, and a lot or research and development was taking place, with the major component being a solid state proximity switch.
During the Second World War between 1939 and 1945, automation continued especially in tanks, warships, fighter airplanes, and landing craft used to get the soldiers ashore from troop carriers. Related: The History of the Liberty Ships
Rebuilding the Manufacturing Industry in 1950’s Japan
Japan officially surrendered in 1945; the US and Allied Forces occupied Japan from then until 1952. An industrial rebuilding program, assisted mainly by the US was immediately started. This meant they were using new technology, including the latest automation that was far superior to the rest of the world who were mostly still manufacturing goods using old fashioned methods.
Japan was soon to become a world leader in automation, especially in the automobile industry. Nissan, Toyota, and Honda produced thousands of new high quality, reliable, modern cars. These had standard accessories that most other car manufacturers classed as extras. They were able to do this because of the money saved using automation technology. These high standards, coupled with realistic prices that could not be bettered by other car manufacturers, ensured their success in this industry.
In Automation History Automation has been achieved by various means including mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, electrical, electronic and computers, usually in combination. Complicated systems, such as modern factories, airplanes and ships typically use all these combined techniques.
Industrial engineers have envisioned fully automated factories since at least the middle of the 20th century. But the real race to automate manufacturing can be said to have begun in the 1980s, when US car manufacturers came up with the vision of “lights-out” manufacturing. The idea was to beat their rivals by automating the factories to such an extent that the entire manufacturing process could be justify to robots. To a great extent, it has remained only a vision so far.