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What are the 5 Levels of Automation?

Have you ever heard of the Automation Pyramid? What is it and what does it represent? The Automation Pyramid is a pictorial representation of the 5 different levels of automation found in the manufacturing industry. It serves as a visual example of how technology is being integrated into the industry today. Let’s break it down by level.

Field Level

On the very bottom of the Automation Pyramid, we have the Field Level, which consists of a wide variety of sensors, actuators, and other devices found on the production floor or in the field. These devices do the monitoring or physical work. Some examples of these devices are electric motors, proximity switches, photoelectric switches, as well as hydraulic and pneumatic actuators. 

Control Level

Without some sort of controller, the field level devices cannot do very much. You must have some sort of computer to control these devices. That is where the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) or the Programmable Automation Controller (PAC) come in to play. The PLC and PAC are both industrial computers constructed and adapted to control all types of machinery within harsh environments like manufacturing facilities. These types of controllers take information from all the field devices, sensors, and switches to make decisions on which outputs to turn on or off to complete the programmed task.

Supervision Level

The next level up on the pyramid is the Supervision level. This is where you find supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, as well as human-machine interfaces (HMI). A SCADA system is a collection of software and hardware components that allows the supervision and control of plants, both locally and remotely. This system is used to examine, collect, and process data in real time. Also, within the SCADA software, there is the ability to LOG data for historical purposes. The data from the field devices are routed from the PLC or PAC to the SCADA computers where the software interprets and displays the data to the HMI screens. The HMI screens are where the operators analyze and react to the system’s events.

Management Level

The Management Level can also be referred to as the planning level. At this level, a management execution system (MES) is utilized to monitor the entire transformation of a product from raw materials to finish goods. By tracking and documenting throughout the various stages of the product’s manufacturing process, management can better understand the current conditions on the plant floor so that the right actions are made to improve production output.

Enterprise Level

At the top of the Pyramid, there is an even higher management system that encompasses everything that you’ve read about and more. This management system is called an ERP or enterprise resource planning system, which is mainly used for a company’s top managers to monitor all the departments of the business from sales, to purchases, to manufacturing, to finance and payroll, and so on. This suite of applications sheds light on what is truly going on throughout the whole company to better promote efficiency, transparency, and where improvements need to be made.

Looking to take your automation to the next level? Here at Integrated Control Systems, Inc, we help manufacturing plants take their automation to the next level by providing a customized MES system for their manufacturing process. Contact us for more information here: