News


From the editor's desk: The automation of automation

July 2023 News


Kim Roberts, Editor

Nowadays I’m trying to get my mind around AI and figure out all the things I can do with it; but there’s another buzzword around, this one is ‘hyperautomation’. Today it’s not smart manufacturing but ‘hyperintelligent automation’. Please forgive me for thinking that’s what IIoT did. Anyway, I thought I would try and make sense of all these terms, and find out how they differ from automation, and if hyperautomation is part of AI and ML or the other way around, and where IIoT comes in, or gigafactories, or lights-out factories. Or is this yet another amazing new technological development? So here goes.

It’s clear that automation is the carrying out of a repetitive task without human intervention. It typically occurs on a smaller scale than hyperautomation, and involves separate jobs. An example would be robotic process automation (RPA) − a robot that can perform low-level repetitive functions based on rule-based processes, for example a welding robot.

Hyperautomation on the other hand is a combination of advanced automation technologies like generative AI, ML, RPA, natural language processing, digital twinning, data analytics, predictive maintenance algorithms and more, that automate processes without human intervention. From what I can see, hyperautomation is the concept of leveraging all these new technologies and automating everything in an organisation that can be automated – basically if it moves, you automate it. One description of hyperautomation I saw is that it’s RPL on steroids. Another is that it’s the automation of automation. The end goal to automate as much of a task as possible, while allowing human workers to focus on other jobs that require creativity, judgement and emotional intelligence.

IIoT at scale

I found it more difficult to decide if IIoT is part of hyperautomation or the other way around. One school of thought is that hyperintelligent automation is a driver of IIoT; but I eventually decided that IIoT is the enabler, arising out of the convergence of OT and IT. I remember when not very long ago we used to publish articles on how the machines are talking to each other. Hyperautomation needs manufacturers to think on a greater scale, and this is what’s driving the adoption of the IIoT technologies we already have. Complex automation is only possible in digitally interconnected systems. Gartner has listed hyperautomation as one of the top ten strategic technology trends of 2023, and believes it is shifting from a nice-to-have to a matter of survival for many organisations because it has the ability to eliminate outdated work processes, which are a top workforce issue.

Whatever you call it, many manufacturers are already dabbling in hyperautomation in preparation for a scaled-up IIoT because simple, task-based automation doesn’t deliver the cross-functional results that they are looking for. Many of the examples I found are clients of SA Instrumentation & Control or have featured in our stories − companies like Siemens, ABB, Rockwell Automation, Fanuc, Schneider Electric, Festo and Honeywell. As an example, Schneider Electric automates the process of creating, labelling, documenting and organising switchboards. Human interaction is eliminated from the process, apart from data input and the physical installation of the finished product. In South Africa we have some world class in industries such as automotive, and food and beverage, and they are on the way to hyperautomation.

The benefits are pretty much the same as we heard when IIoT first came in: optimised processes, increased efficiency, and improved overall performance. So are the caveats. The explanations that jobs won’t be lost, they’ll just be different and more satisfying, are no different.

Avoid the traps

One of my favourite Bill Gates quotes is: “The first rule for a technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” There is a fine line between elegant networking and a tangle of hyper-automated systems − excessive automation.

Elon Musk discovered this in 2018 when the production line for the Tesla Model 3 came to a complete halt for four days. Musk said the plant became a manufacturing nightmare, with its complex network of conveyor belts struggling to manage production and instead resulting in bottlenecks. Businesses can take digitalisation, connectivity and artificial intelligence to an extreme without understanding fully what they hope to achieve.

Anyway, I have come to the conclusion that the road from manual to automation to hyper-automation is a continuum, and each manufacturer has their place on the scale, whether it’s a small factory creating lots of jobs or a Tesla gigafactory.


Credit(s)



Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Moore Process Controls is moving ahead
Moore Process Controls News
Moore Process Controls was established in South Africa in 1985, migrating from a local agent for Moore Products in the USA to a multi-faceted company with a wide range of automation and optimisation capabilities.

Read more...
BMG’s machine tools on show at Machine Tools Africa
Bearing Man Group t/a BMG News
BMG will be participating at the Machine Tools Africa exhibition. Its stand will showcase the company’s comprehensive range of quality branded tools and equipment, which has been carefully selected by specialists, to meet the exact requirements of customers in diverse sectors.

Read more...
Enlit Africa reimagines energy security in Africa
News
The prestigious Enlit Africa 2024 exhibition has the goal of addressing the very real energy security concerns felt by companies across Africa.

Read more...
From the editor's desk: The digital deluge
Technews Publishing (SA Instrumentation & Control) News
One of the issues arising out of our newfound ability to generate our own electricity is the ability to store it. BESS systems are the order of the day, and we regularly run stories on this new development. ...

Read more...
Turck Banner welcomes Ivan De Waal as new managing director
Turck Banner Southern Africa News
Turck Banner Southern Africa is pleased to announce the appointment of Ivan De Waal as its new managing director.

Read more...
University of Pretoria unveils immersive technology laboratory
News
The University of Pretoria’s faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology is proud to announce the launch of its new Immersive Technology Lab at the Department of Information Science. This cutting-edge facility marks a significant milestone in the university’s journey towards integrating advanced immersive technologies into its curriculum and research initiatives.

Read more...
IS3 X-Change 2024 conference
News
X-Change is an annual gathering of tech enthusiasts, industry leaders and visionaries pushing the boundaries of innovation. Join IS3 for an immersive experience that celebrates the latest in technology and fosters networking opportunities, and discover how your organisation can benefit from AVEVA software and the IS3 industry solution partner ecosystem.

Read more...
Exploring the role of AI in recruitment
News
In an era defined by rapid technological advancements, the integration of AI is proving to be transformative across various industries. Thankfully, and in contradiction to what many people believe, AI enhances many functions, rather than replacing real people.

Read more...
Celebrating three decades of innovation in Africa's premier industrial software conference
News
With a rich 29-year history, the X-Change User Conference stands as Africa's largest and most prestigious annual gathering dedicated to industrial software and related technology. Hosted by Industry Software Solutions & Support (IS3), this year, X-Change 2024 promises to be even more impactful as it celebrates three decades of innovation and collaboration.

Read more...
4Sight OT Automation achieves prestigious AVEVA Endorsed Partner status
News
4Sight OT Automation, a leading industrial software solutions provider, has achieved Endorsed Partner status within the AVEVA Partner Network.

Read more...