Technological advancements in process monitoring, control and industrial automation over the past decades have contributed greatly to improve the productivity of virtually all manufacturing industries throughout the world.While 90% of global production is still controlled by analog instrumentation, almost all the controls installed as a part of a new plant or plant expansion are Digital Control Systems DCS connected by digital networks. Nowadays, in this era of digital buses, one can plug in a laptop or use a wireless hand tool to instantly establish access to all the data, displays and intelligence that resides anywhere on the DCS network. This capability, in combination with the self-tuning, self-diagnosing and optimizing features of modern process control, makes both startup activity and operational routines much easier and more efficient.
Similarly, Distributed Control Systems DCS offer process modeling and simulation, something that can improve operator training a great deal. An accurate simulation model allows operators to train under "live" conditions without exposing the plant to the consequences of their mistakes.
Automation (ancient Greek: = self dictated), roboticization or industrial automation or numerical control is the use of control systems such as computers to control industrial machinery and processes, replacing human operators. In the scope of industrialization, it is a step beyond mechanization. Whereas mechanization provided human operators with machinery to assist them with the physical requirements of work, automation greatly reduces the need for human sensory and mental requirements as well. Processes and systems can also be automated. Automation plays an increasingly important role in the global economy and in daily experience. Engineers strive to combine automated devices with mathematical and organizational tools to create complex systems for a rapidly expanding range of applications and human activities. There are still many jobs which are in no immediate danger of automation. No device has been invented which can match the human eye for accuracy and precision in many tasks; nor the human ear. Even the admittedly handicapped human is able to identify and distinguish among far more scents than any automated device. Human pattern recognition, language recognition, and language production ability is well beyond anything currently envisioned by automation engineers. Specialised hardened computers, referred to as programmable logic controllers (PLCs), are frequently used to synchronize the flow of inputs from (physical) sensors and events with the flow of outputs to actuators and events. This leads to precisely controlled actions that permit a tight control of almost any industrial process. (It was these devices that were feared to be vulnerable to the "Y2K bug", with such potentially dire consequences, since they are now so ubiquitous throughout the industrial world.) Human-machine interfaces (HMI) or computer human interfaces (CHI), formerly known as man-machine interfaces, are usually employed to communicate with PLCs and other computers, such as entering and monitoring temperatures or pressures for further automated control or emergency response. Service personnel who monitor and control these interfaces are often referred to as stationary engineers. A separate form of automation involving computers is test automation, where computer-controlled automated test equipment is programmed to simulate human testers in manually testing an application. This is often accomplished by using test automation tools to generate special scripts (written as computer programs) that direct the automated test equipment in exactly what to do in order to accomplish the tests Another separate field of automation is Home automation. This type of automation emerged in the early 1990s. This type of automation is concerned with the controls of everything in a house, from lights and blinds through security and access system to heating, cooling, water supply and home theater systems. A whole house system will gather and integrate all of these separate subsystems into one integrated system that can be managed from a central display panel, a remote control or even over the Internet from another physical location. A more common form of automation is more related to office automation is software-automation, where a computer by means of macro recorder software records the sequence of user actions (mouse and keyboard) as a macro for playback at a later time.