9. Mechanization: the Wheel
The story of automation begins with its predecessor: mechanization. Although the advent of mechanization is more often associated with the Industrial Revolution than the invention of the wheel, the wheel’s invention is the root of all mechanical innovation—for it was the first documented means of replacing humans’ labor with that of a machine. The wheel has simplified human labor, transportation, and machinery for over 5,400 years.
8. Electricity: the Telephone
Despite advancing the concept of automation in 1745 via his patented windmill invention, Edmund Lee’s biggest accomplishment was the inroad he paved for Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, who, through a confluence of efforts in the 19th century, applied electricity to the telephone. This invention would lead to the automation processes inherent to voicemail and other automated phone systems used worldwide today.
7. Sequential Automation: The Lawn Sprinkler and the Elevator
The elevator was invented in 1877—the lawn sprinkler its 6-year senior. Sequential automation built the groundwork for open and closed loop automation, seamlessly producing adjustable and fixed sequences in mechanical tandem. The lawn sprinkler is a classic example of this form of automation, for it can be adjusted manually while retaining functions inherent to its design; the same concept applies to the elevator.
6. Continuous Automation: The Airplane
One may argue that continuous automation controls began with the Wright Brothers: The first people to achieve sustained and controlled flight via aircraft in 1903. Continuous automation technologies and controls built (and still build) upon discrete automation technology’s simplicity to account for variables within ranges specified by users—imparting unto consumers and workers alike greater breadth of choice in the automation process. Continuous automation controls first proliferated in the communications and manufacturing industries, and are now common across many sectors.
5. Discrete Automation Controls: The Assembly Line
1 year after the Titanic sank, the invention of the assembly line brought with it the economic prosperity that would characterize the 1920s. The simplest yet most deeply embedded of all automation processes, discrete automation can be found at nearly any turn in contemporary society. In manufacturing, these controls were first manifested in programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to create goods without manual labor, and are also replicated in on-off switches (as in manual light switches), household appliance buttons, and motor vehicle ignitions.
4. Computer Automation 1.0: Before the Internet
An intermingling of both sequential automation and open and closed loop automation (see below), process-specific computers drove the innovation behind what we’d come to know as the first form of computer-driven automation. However, the consumerization of the computer, which co-occurred with the advent of the internet’s availability to the public in 1991, was the end of the brief albeit powerful pre-internet phase of computer automation.
3. Computer Automation 2.0: Post Internet
Ironically, until this phenomenon occurred, blue-collar workers were more immersed in the automation process than white-collar workers, for automation was virtually restricted to manufacturing and factory locations within the organizational process. However, web automation frameworks and shipping automation technologies have impressively scaled automation within the computer—making the internet and computers philosophically inseparable technologies.
2. Advanced Open and Closed Loop Automation: Internet of Things (IoT) Technology
Open- and closed-loop automation technologies built (and still) build upon continuous automation controls by not only accounting for variables set within user-specific ranges of function, but also through feedback. This feedback entails transmitting and sending information through a loop in which the feedback compares input to a set point. If the feedback and input are incommensurate to manufacturer- or user-specified standards, the loop sends feedback to make a correction. An example of contemporary technology utilizing loop automation is Internet of Things (IoT)—a confluence of emergent technologies that integrate the physical world into the digital world of automation.
1. Enterprise 2.0: Document Management Software and Enterprise Content Management
Although many fear automation will put workers out of work, the Atlantic reports that workers will have greater employment opportunities if their occupation undergoes some degree of computer automation. This is good news: It means organizations in any and all sectors can automate their workflow and document retention policies through Document Management Software and Enterprise Content Management—which are each gold standards for information management and automation in the enterprise.
Automation is much more than the machination of human processes—it provides room for the completion of tasks that would otherwise be impossible. Tasks like generating ROI for your organization among intense periods of growth and change. Processes that were once viewed as intangible, such as workflow and document retention, can be automated by Document Management Software and Enterprise Content Management for the betterment of organizations. Click here to find out how.