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5.4.1 Define automation.

A volume production process involving machines controlled by computers.

Automation is a industrial process, using control system such as computers to control industrial machinery and processes. This replaces humans as workers and automation reduces the need for human sensory and mental requirements since its all controlled by computers. Computers can be programmed in ways that it does the same job over and over again without flaws so the process can go non-stop 24/7 making it faster, easier and cheaper to manufacture things. many things that we use daily are now mass produced and made cheaper thanks to Automation.

How toilet paper is made Robotic arm

5.4.2 Describe how the development of computer and information technology in the “technological revolution” led to the introduction of automation.

Refer also to the importance of electricity.

After the Industrial revolution the Technological revolution arrived. The use and control of electricity in computer technology and circuitry. Computer programmers were able to develop complex control systems (using actuators etc) and use them to control mechanical motions. Then industry saw the potential benefits and readily adopted it.

5.4.3 Define computer-aided manufacture (CAM) and computer numerical control (CNC).

Computer-aided manufacture (CAM)

The use of computers to aid manufacturing.

Computer numerical control (CNC)

Refers specifically to the computer control of machines for the purpose of manufacturing complex parts in metals and other materials. Machines are controlled by a program commonly called a “G code”. Each code is assigned to a particular operation or process. The codes control X,Y,Z movements and feed speeds.

Activity: Mini Maze project

5.4.4 Explain how CAD, CAM and CNC contribute to an automated production system.

Consider the wide variety of systems available.

Systems such as CAD, CAM and CNC can contribute to an automated production system by linking to the manufacturing equipment with is likewise controlled by a computer. CAM for example would offer a better control over the equipment then a human operator, which can also reduce labor costs. Also since the machines are following the exact CAD drawings there is a lower chance of flaws to occur with the finished product. Designers can use this method to create prototypes much faster and it allows them also to test if the product is feasible. Furthermore it allows the production process to lower waste amount.

5.4.5 Define just-in-time (JIT) and just-incase (JIC)


A situation where a company keeps a small stock of components (or complete items) or ones that take a long time to make, just in case of a rush order.


A situation where a firm does not allocate space to the storage of components or completed items, but instead orders them (or manufactures them) when required. Large storage areas are not needed and items that are not ordered are not made.

"The development of ‘just in time’ (JIT) manufacturing has evolved as an appropriate production technique to address the problems of excess stock and lack of responsiveness by manufacturers, to trends in the marketplace" -HSC Online

5.4.6 Explain the advantages of JIT and JIC to manufacturing.

Refer to reliability, efficiency, distribution, workforce, storage, capital investment, stock control and traditions.
Reliability Part will need to be made, things could go wrong, delay in manufacture Part is on hand
Efficiency Highly flexible, easy set-up for short runs (because of cell production)
Distribution Will be a delay while part is being made Can take place imediately
Storage Not Required Required - costs will be incurred
Capital investment
Stock control Not Required Required
Traditions Factory organised in cells instead of departments based on function
  • Description on JIT
  • Figure 8-3 provides a more visual example of this.

JIT: It is useful in situations when storage space is limited and the part is easy to make. It costs less for the manufacturer but is slightly less convenient to the user, it also requires a larger workforce as it is less economic to automate when everything is made on demand. Storage is not required, so that part of the total price is not included. Stock control is not an issue because there is no or little stock.

The six purposes of JIT manufacturing are:

  • reducing cost
  • improving quality
  • improving performance
  • improving delivery
  • adding flexibility
  • increasing innovativeness. - HSC Online

The wastes to be eliminated are:

  • wastes from overproduction
  • transportation waste
  • processing waste
  • waste from product defects
  • waiting time, idle time
  • inventory waste (excess numbers of stock)
  • waste of motion. - HSC Online

JIC is more expensive due to storage space but much more convenient, so a customer in a hurry might be willing to pay more to get the part immediately. It is easier to automate since production can be done in bursts once the stocks fall below a certain number. It is less efficient but more reliable.

Other advantages; '“buffer”, goods-in-stock or on hand in case of unforeseen circumstances (e.g. non-delivery of supplies) and rapid changes in demand.

JIC based on having huge safety stocks JIT based on continuous flow production system]]

5.4.7 Define mass customisation.

A sophisticated CIM system that manufactures products to individual customer orders. The benefits of economy of scale are gained whether the order is for a single item or for thousands.

Mass customisation is the design process where the customer helps deciding the design of the product in question. The process is emphasised by meeting the needs of the customers concerning the product's features. The manufacturing techniques generally remain the same but are often flexible so to guarantee an optimisation of the requested customisation, this slightly modifies manufacturing technique is easily and cheaply applicable by the manufacturer and therefore turns customisation into a mass market, taking away its traditional upmarket appeal. Little modifications in manufacturing for example includes the use of different colours of paint, different material ergonomics or even size.

The consumer will benefit in many ways. The price will be relatively low since the implementing of mass production brings economies of scale for the company which lowers the cost per unit. Moreover, the customer can customise his/her product by allowing customers to interact with a company and specify their unique requirements which are then manufactured by '''automated systems. An example of mass customisation may be a car. It's body is produced on a large scale (mass production), but each customer has the opportunity to customise the interior, colour, engine, etc.

  • Go to Nikeid and customise a shoe or price of apparel.
  • Ford custom accessories for your ride!
  • This website contains some case studies and examples.

5.4.8 Outline how mass customization is changing the relationship between the manufacturer and the consumer.

The relationship is akin to craft production, where the individual requirements of the consumer dominate.

The relationship between the manufacturer and the consumer has definitely grown closer for both their benefits. The manufacturer must now consult the consumer, through surveys or questionnaires and collect research on the changing trends and consumer styles. The manufacturer, in a sense, must be more 'up-to-date' and aware of consumer trends. More money on research may be invested.

Furthermore, mass customisation allows an average design to be created, but with special quirks which allow the consumer to feel as though it is his/her own. Also, recommendations by consumers will be taken into great consideration since the products have the options of customisation. Altogether, the relationship has grown in importance and usefulness for both the consumer and manufacturer.

5.4.9 Discuss the impact of automation on working conditions.

Consider nature and type of employment, health and safety issues, social interaction and job satisfaction.


  • Tedious and time-consuming jobs are now being performed by machines rather than workers. An example would be dish washing.
  • Improves health and safety
  • Increases production
  • Speeds up the process
  • Replaces unskilled workers that make faults


  • Extreme industrialisation
  • Less social interaction in the workplace due to fewer employees
  • The numbers of workers needed has been cut sharply
  • The loss of worker expertise
  • The loss of overtime pay
  • Makes life dependant on new technology
  • Training in the new areas of electronics, computer engineering and maintenance of systems is now needed. -HSC Online

Short essay on the human impact of Automation

5.4.10 Outline how automation has improved the type and range of products available to consumers

Many products require such precision in their manufacture that, without automation, it would not be possible to produce them at an affordable price

Automation has improved the range of products available to consumers due to the ease and simplicity of producing a product. By simply changing something in the software, a designer can change the product in a number of ways. For example, different colours or cases for a portable device, such as an mp3 player, can have a selection of different design styles. This allows a wider of range of products to be available to the consumer.

The types of products an be improved to due automation by the precision available with automated processes. Computer chips, for example, could only be manufactured in large numbers with an automated process. The minuscule size of these products causes the slightest mistake in manufacturing to render the product unusable. This is why the use of automated processes has allowed many different types and advancements of products to be created and used.


Bulleted list and italicised paragraphs are excerpted from Design Technology: guide. Cardiff Wales, UK: International Baccalaureate Organization, 2007.

Images are clickable links to its location.

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Page last modified on April 07, 2014, at 08:13 PM