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Automated Manufacturing System Integration Education: Current Status And Future Directions

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Lean Manufacturing and Integration

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.243.1 - 10.243.6



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Paper Authors

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Sheng-Jen Hsieh

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Automated Manufacturing System Integration Education: Current Status and Future Directions Sheng-Jen (“Tony”) Hsieh Dept. of Engineering Technology and Dept. of Mechanical Engineering Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

1. Introduction

Automated systems play an essential role in manufacturing, from assembling complex electronic devices to mixing pharmaceuticals. Engineers must constantly design, maintain, reconfigure, and upgrade these systems to accommodate shifts in product design or manufacturing priorities. Their ability to rapidly complete such tasks is critical to maintaining our national economic competitiveness and security. However, automated manufacturing system integration is a complex cognitive skill that typically takes years to master. This paper will (1) define automated system integration; (2) survey current status of engineering education in this area; (3) present results from field interviews with industry practitioners; (4) identify gaps between industry needs and education curricula; and (5) propose an agenda for industry collaboration and curriculum development to remedy these issues.

An automated manufacturing system generally consists of processing equipment, material handling devices, and material transfer equipment. The processing equipment can be a computer numerical control (CNC) milling, lathe, turning machine or any other type of equipment that changes or alters the property of the work piece. Material handling devices include industrial robots, actuators, and others devices that handle the work-in-process work-piece at the workstations. Material transfer equipment, such as conveyors, is often used to move raw materials from their respective bins to a destination where they can be picked up by material handling devices. A system controller works behind the scenes to orchestrate and synchronize the operations performed by the equipment.

Most modern automated manufacturing systems use a programmable logic controller (PLC) as the system controller. A PLC is a solid-state control system with a user-programmable memory, used to read input conditions and set output conditions to control a machine or process. It has been said that the programmable logic controller is among the most ingenious devices ever invented to advance the field of manufacturing automation1. Thousands of PLCs are used in manufacturing plants for such applications as monitoring security, managing energy consumption, and controlling machines and automated production lines.

Integrating the various components of an automated manufacturing system requires knowledge of the characteristics of the various mechanical and electrical devices available to make up the system, including their functions, power requirements, and specific characteristics, and the ability to write PLC programs to orchestrate and synchronize the process being automated. It is a complex skill, and often one of the last subjects students are taught in school. New automation and control engineers are often not fully prepared to perform system integration tasks.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Hsieh, S. (2005, June), Automated Manufacturing System Integration Education: Current Status And Future Directions Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14195

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