What is Automated Assembly?

Tess C. Taylor

Automated assembly refers to a manner of producing goods by use of automated machinery or assembly robots and a systematic approach to assembling goods that operates at least partly independently from human control. In most cases, automated machinery is used to produce products using standardized parts added in a specific series of motions or activities along what is commonly called an assembly line. In many technology firms, medical research and clinical companies and factories, automated assembly is an important part of the process.

Robots working on an automobile assembly line.
Robots working on an automobile assembly line.

Early in the nineteenth century, between 1908 and 1915, automated assembly as a regular manufacturing practice was born in companies like the Ford Motor Company in the United States. By standardizing parts used in the manufacture of the Ford Model T car, in addition to using machinery to assemble them, Ford was better able to produce hundreds more of this popular vehicle for sale to consumers around the world. This made it cheaper and faster to produce cars. Automated assembly was then introduced into many other industries as a result of this success.

Some of the first automated assembly lines manufactured the Ford Model T car.
Some of the first automated assembly lines manufactured the Ford Model T car.

In many factories today, automated assembly is used to create parts and then assemble a wide variety of consumer products, from foods to electronics. Workers are on hand to oversee the process and make sure that the flow of the assembly line is maintained for long periods of time to maximize the ability to produce thousands of quality products in the shortest period of time. Much of the machinery used requires careful calibration and adjustments, but does not require any other human interaction.

Medical research facilities and food processing plants often use automated assembly processes in areas where human contact is dangerous or could cause contamination of products. Mechanical hand-manipulated or robotic assembly equipment is used to handle the products systematically within a sealed environment to minimize this risk. Technicians work behind glass barriers which keep products safe from human contact, but allow for quality assurance processes.

Large-scale manufacturing companies use larger automated assembly processes including the use of heavy robotic equipment to put together large products, such as automobiles. Assembly systems in these environments are operated by a central control center by just a few workers, but otherwise assemble vehicles independently during this process. While this form of manufacturing may seem like it replaces human workers, it has improved assembly and reduced human injury and failure rates in many industries, making vehicles more affordable for consumers.

Industrial robots often perform the assembly on modern lines.
Industrial robots often perform the assembly on modern lines.

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Discussion Comments


@starrynight - Good point. Also, people are needed to make the automated assembly machine components, creating even more jobs!

I had no idea automated assembly was so vital to Ford's early success. It makes a lot of sense though. Imagine if car parts had to be made one by one! Cars would probably have never caught on and would only be used by the super rich!


I always think of automated assembly when I hear people complaining that technology is going to "replace workers and take jobs." In my opinion, most new technologies create jobs!

And yes, they may do away with some job titles but not the workers. For example, in an automated manufacturing process people watch, operate, and maintain the machines instead of producing the good themselves. But people are still needed!

Another good example of a recent automated technology where people are still needed is the self check out at the grocery store. Even though the customers ring themselves up, employees are needed to be on hand in case there is a problem with the machines. I doubt anyone lost their job because of the self check out!

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