(92) What is the five layer automation pyramid?

Automation pyramid is a pictorial representation of the different levels of automation in a factory. It’s a great way to make sense of the entire complexity in a factory.

Level 0- Field Level/Production Process

This level has devices, actuators, and sensors that are found in the field or on the production floor. The field level is the production floor where physical work and monitoring happens. Electric motors, hydraulic and pneumatic actuators to move machinery, proximity switches to detect movement of certain materials, photoelectric switches that detect similar things are some examples at the field level.

Level 1-Control Level/Sensing and Manipulation

PLC’s and PID’s operate at this level.

At this level, you control and manipulate the devices in the field level that actually do the physical work. They take in information from all of the sensors, switches, and other input devices to make decisions on what outputs to turn on to complete the programmed task. PLCs contain a processor, memory to hold their programming and other data and input and output modules.

A PID is usually integrated in to the PLC and stands for proportional–integral–derivative. That is what can keep a variable within a set of parameters.

A common example that you probably use every day is your cruise control. You set your cruise control to whatever speed you want, then a set of sensors and the computer in the car will tell it when to accelerate or decelerate according to the set speed.

A common industrial PID controlled item is a heater. Many systems in manufacturing plants have to be heated. We control this with a PID block within the PLC. When a set point is entered, the PID will determine when the PLC needs to turn the heater on and off to maintain a constant temperature.

Level 2- Supervisory Level/Monitoring and supervising

This level is known as the supervisory level. Where the previous level utilizes PLCs, this level utilizes SCADA. SCADA is short for supervisory control and data acquisition.

SCADA is essentially the combination of the previous levels used to access data and control systems from a single location. It usually adds a graphical user interface called an HMI, to control functions remotely. The important thing to remember about SCADA is that it can monitor and control multiple systems from a single location. It isn’t limited to a single machines.

Level 3-Planning level/Operations Management

The fourth level of the automation pyramid is called the planning level. This level utilizes a computer management system known as MES or manufacturing execution system. MES monitors the entire manufacturing process in a plant or factory from the raw materials to the finished product.

This allows management to see exactly what is happening and allows them to make decisions based on that information. They can adjust raw material orders or shipment plans based on real data received from the systems.

Level 4 — Enterprise level(Business Planning and Logistics)

The top of the pyramid is what is called the management level. This level uses the companies integrated management system which is known as the ERP or enterprise resource planning.

This is where a company’s top management can see and control their operations. ERP is usually a suite of different computer applications that can see everything going on inside a company. It utilizes all of the previous levels technology plus some more software to accomplish this level of integration.

This allows the business to be able to monitor all levels of the business from manufacturing, to sales, to purchasing, to finance and payroll, plus many others. The integration of the ERP promotes efficiency and transparency within a company by keeping everyone in the same page.

Level 5 — Cloud

Cloud is what forms the digital transformation part of the factory where data from any of the previous levels can directly be fed into a data lake or other applications and insights could be gathered. Here is where the next level of efficiency and operational excellence is achieved.