Introduction

Every day, our world is becoming increasingly, technologically advanced. Automated control systems are becoming more and more capable by the day. With the development and continual improvement in automation, artificial intelligence and robotics, it may be increasingly tempting to employ automatic means to accomplish our production goals. Just think of it, if there are no humans on the production floor, there will be no more human errors, no one will get injured and companies will get their product out the door faster and with better quality. The supervisors will not have to deal with emotional employees, who get tired, always want time off, try to sabotage the production operations, whine about too much noise or dust, get to work late, get hurt, spoil batches and just generally disrupt things around the operation. Getting the product out the door faster and with better and more consistent quality should be enough for anyone to want to automate everything. In fact, it appears that the trend in industry is just that. Walter Bennis, a well-known management consultant, says that the factory of the future will have only two employees, a human and a dog. The human is there only to feed the dog and the dog is there to bite the human if he or she touches anything (Paradies and Unger, 2000).

There are probably few who would argue that in today's complex industrial processes, automated control systems are a necessity. However, is complete automation appropriate, or the best approach? While it is true that control system automation provides predictable, consistent performance, it is lacking in human judgment, adaptability and logic. On the other hand, humans provide judgment, adaptability, experience and sound logic, but unfortunately, are unpredictable, unreliable, inconsistent, subject to emotions and alternative motivations and not very biomechanically efficient. The questions posed by Haight and Kecojevic (2005) are important ones and are not easy to answer. "To maximize system performance, should we automate humans out of the system? …or…Do we maximize human input and lose efficient, consistent, error-free system performance?" As Haight and Kecojevic (2005) explain, the answer to those questions is that the proper level of automation is likely to be somewhere in the middle of these two extremes and different for each system and situation. This paper provides a review of the existing literature on automated control systems and human interface and input and attempts to extend the work done by Haight and Kecojevic (2005). The goal of this line of research is to help develop a method to make it easier for design engineers to answer the questions, "How can we minimize human error while still maximizing system performance?" and "What is the right human-machine mix?" (Haight, et al., 2005)

The Problem

Does automation of control systems in today's industry really increase system productivity and help to reduce human error? Intuitively, most everyone asked would probably say that they expect that if we engineered humans out of the system, productivity would increase and errors would decrease.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.